One of the Big Ten’s hottest players faces the conference’s top scorer when Kalin Lucas and Michigan State, seeking its best conference start in 31 years, face Talor Battle and Penn State on Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
The seventh-ranked Spartans (13-2, 3-0) are resuming their Big Ten schedule after beating defending national champion Kansas 75-62 on Saturday despite shooting 39.3 percent from the field.
The win was Michigan State’s ninth in a row and allowed it to remain the lone undefeated team in conference play. The Spartans haven’t won their first four conference games since 1977-78.
Lucas scored 22 points and was 3-of-4 from 3-point range Saturday after scoring 20 points in a win over Ohio State last Tuesday, earning Big Ten player of the week honors. He’s 12-of-18 (66.7 percent) from beyond the arc in the last five games.
“It’s always fun when guys put something into it and get something out of it,” coach Tom Izzo said of Lucas, who is averaging 20.8 points in the last four games. “If he continues to grow, he’s going to put himself in a good position and us, too.”
For the season, Lucas is averaging 13.9 points, putting him second behind Raymar Morgan for the team lead in scoring. Morgan is averaging 15.1 points on 58.9 percent shooting.
Lucas scored a team-high 18 points in last season’s visit to Penn State, but Morgan was held to 11 on 4-of-11 shooting and then-No. 8 Michigan State lost 85-76.
Battle had 17 points in that matchup and is leading the Big Ten this season with 18.9 per game. He’s averaged 24.0 in his last three home games, including 21 in a 67-64 win over then-No. 14 Purdue last Tuesday.
This will be the Nittany Lions’ third consecutive game against a ranked team, having lost 79-59 at then-No. 22 Minnesota on Sunday as they shot 36.7 percent while letting the Golden Gophers hit 62.5 percent. Battle scored a team-high 19 points despite being held scoreless until almost 15 minutes had passed.
“He was the guy competing for us and still trying,” coach Ed DeChellis said of Battle. “We didn’t have a whole lot to go with him.”
Penn State is 8-0 when Battle scores at least 20 points, compared to 5-4 when he doesn’t.
The Nittany Lions (13-4, 2-2) have averaged just 62.0 points in conference play while the Spartans lead the Big Ten with 77.6 per game.
Despite his team sitting atop the conference standings, Izzo believes the Spartans aren’t complete just yet.
“We’re still trying to develop our identity and our rotation,” he said.
The Spartans have won 25 of the 29 all-time meetings with the Nittany Lions, but Penn State is 10-1 at the Bryce Jordan Center this season.