Before Michigan State can look forward to a date with a Top 5 team, it has time for one more tune-up game.
The No. 19 Spartans try for a 38th straight home victory over a non-conference opponent when they host The Citadel on Wednesday night.
Ranked as high as fifth this season, Michigan State (6-2) has failed to hold its own against major-conference opponents, losing by 18 to Maryland and 35 against No. 1 North Carolina. The Spartans have another chance to prove they can compete with the nation’s best when they face No. 5 Texas on Saturday in Houston.
“We just have to keep getting better,” Spartans guard Travis Walton said. “It doesn’t matter who we play. We’re competing against ourselves.”
A home date with a beatable opponent before facing the Longhorns might be a good way to gain some momentum heading into that contest. The Spartans won 73-41 against The Citadel on Nov. 12, 2006 in the teams’ only meeting.
Michigan State, seeking a third consecutive victory overall since losing to the Tar Heels in Detroit, posted a resounding 118-60 win over Alcorn State on Saturday at the Breslin Center. The Spartans shot 58.7 percent from the field and recorded a school-record 35 assists while finishing three points shy of the school’s single-game scoring mark.
“We needed a game like that,” said coach Tom Izzo, whose team has won 24 games in a row at home.
Chris Allen finished with 20 points while Kalin Lucas added 16, Raymar Morgan 13 and freshman Korie Lucious had a career-high 11 assists for Michigan State, which hasn’t lost to a non-conference opponent at Breslin since falling 72-50 to No. 6 Duke on Dec. 3, 2003.
“We’ve been working on trust,” Walton said. “That showed.”
The sophomore Allen is second on the team averaging 12.1 points on the season and 18.3 on 51.4 percent shooting - including 13-for-24 from 3-point range - in his last three games.
Morgan, the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per contest, had 10 in a starting role as a freshman against The Citadel two years ago.
The Citadel (5-5) looks to avoid a third straight loss after losing 79-61 to UC Davis on Monday. Guard Cameron Wells had 15 points with six rebounds while Demetrius Nelson scored 14 for the Bulldogs, who committed 15 turnovers and allowed their opponent to shoot 64.1 percent.
“We did not put on our best performance,” Citadel coach Ed Conroy said. “We weren’t as sharp as we could be on the defensive end and we had some careless turnovers.”
Wells, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, averages a team-leading 15.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Nelson, meanwhile, scored a team-high nine points as The Citadel was held to 29.4 percent shooting against Michigan State in 2006.
The Citadel, which will face its second Big Ten team this season after losing 70-48 to Iowa on Nov. 20, is 0-6 versus ranked opponents since the start of the 1996-97 season.