Slipping further away from a Big Ten title, Michigan State returns home trying to avoid a sweep by in-state rival Michigan when the teams meet on Saturday.
The 16th-ranked Spartans (18-7, 6-5) are 10-0 at home this season, but fell 2 1/2 games back in the conference standings after a 66-54 road loss Tuesday to No. 18 Iowa, the Big Ten leader.
The loss was the second in a row for the Spartans, who suffered a 69-55 defeat three days earlier to Minnesota. Michigan State has not dropped three consecutive games since Dec. 3-13, 2003.
Paul Davis had 17 points and 11 rebounds for Michigan State and Shannon Brown added 12 points and eight boards, but both players got into early foul trouble.
The Spartans got just one point from their reserves, committed 18 turnovers, and made just three of 17 3-point attempts in the contest.
“I’m disappointed that we can’t seem to find the basket,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “That affects other parts of the game, too. Now we need to regroup.”
Regrouping against the Wolverines might be easier said than done. Michigan State lost to Michigan on Jan. 25 in Ann Arbor 72-67—the Spartans’ second loss in 14 meetings between the teams.
The Spartans committed 17 turnovers in that contest. They also had only 10 free throw attempts compared to Michigan’s 34.
Michigan State must win all five of its remaining games to even have a chance at the Big Ten title. Four of those contests are at home, but three of the opponents—Illinois, Wisconsin and the Wolverines—have already defeated the Spartans this season.
The Wolverines (17-6, 7-5) ended a three-game skid Wednesday with a commanding 72-50 victory over Minnesota.
Daniel Horton scored 21 points and Ron Coleman and Chris Hunter added 13 apiece for Michigan. The team had allowed at least 84 points in each game during the losing streak.
“We certainly have struggled in our previous games,” said Michigan coach Tommy Amaker. “Our defensive effort and intensity tonight were tremendous. We had a great team effort on the defensive end.”
The Wolverines held the Golden Gophers to 20 points in the first half while making 10 of their own first 13 field-goal attempts.
Michigan led by as many as 29 points three times before halftime.
“That’s pretty good,” said Horton, who made all eight of his free throws. “I looked up at one point and we were up 35-6. I don’t think you can start a game too much better than that.
“That’s the way we feel like we’re supposed to defend. That’s supposed to be a given with this team that we’re going to come out and play good defense. It was pretty disappointing that we hadn’t done that the last few games.”
Michigan also won despite playing without starters Dion Harris and Lester Abram and reserve Jerret Smith, out due with injuries and illness.
The Wolverines have lost seven straight games at East Lansing and are 35-41 there all-time.