Michigan State has a meeting looming with one of the best teams in the nation. Before that, however, it will have a chance to extend a 32-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.
The ninth-ranked Spartans seek their seventh straight victory when they face San Jose State on Wednesday night in their final tuneup for a meeting with No. 4 Texas.
While some teams fill the non-conference portion of their schedule with opponents that serve as little more than practice opportunities, Michigan State (9-1) will have faced four ranked teams in its first 12 games.
The Spartans are the only school ranked in the top 10 that has already faced three Top 25 opponents. Their fourth ranked foe will be Texas (10-0) on Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Because his team is faced with such a demanding schedule, coach Tom Izzo has been hard on his players. He wasn’t pleased despite a seemingly easy 79-57 victory over visiting IPFW on Saturday.
“We still don’t have enough guys driven by excellence,” Izzo said. “When you can’t put a team away at home, you’re settling for mediocrity. They deserve some credit for that, and we deserve some blame.”
Drew Neitzel scored 18 points, Marquise Gray added a season-high 15 and Raymar Morgan had 12 for the Spartans, whose lone blemish this season is a 68-63 loss to then-No. 2 UCLA on Nov. 20.
“For our standards, we were still kind of flat,” Gray said. “We should’ve been able to extend that lead. When you get a team down, you’ve got to knock them out. Our focus tonight was about a C-plus or B-minus. It has to be an A-plus in some games we have coming up.”
Michigan State continued its dominance of non-conference opponents at home, winning its 32nd straight since a 72-50 defeat to then-No.6 Duke on Dec. 3, 2003. The streak is the third-longest in the nation, trailing the Blue Devils (56) and Sam Houston State (41).
The Spartans are 170-22 at home in 12-plus seasons under Izzo.
Morgan leads Michigan State in scoring (16.8 points per game), reaching double figures in all 10 games this season and 14 consecutive contests overall. He also ranks second in rebounding (7.6).
Neitzel, the team’s only other double-digit scorer (14.6), has made at least two 3-pointers in his last 20 games. He’s 26-of-59 (44.1 percent) from 3-point range this season.
San Jose State (3-4) will be hard pressed to snap its losing streak, which reached three with a 62-57 defeat to Northern Arizona on Saturday.
Justin Graham had 18 points for San Jose State, which was coached by assistant Donald Williams. Head coach George Nessman missed the game due to a family emergency.
An upset of Michigan State would end San Jose State’s 16-game losing streak against ranked teams. San Jose State hasn’t beaten a Top 25 opponent since a 60-59 win over then-No. 19 Alabama on Dec. 27, 1996.
San Jose State is 1-12 against the Big Ten, with the lone victory coming against Iowa on Dec. 21,1974.
Michigan State leads the series with San Jose State 2-0, but this is the first meeting between the teams since Dec. 29, 1989.