As a perennial Big Ten power, Michigan State has established a significant home-court advantage at the Breslin Center since its opening two decades ago.
Northwestern is fully aware of the Spartans’ dominance there.
Off to their best conference start in more than 30 years, the seventh-ranked Spartans look to extend their home winning streak to 29 games on Wednesday when they host the Wildcats, who have never won at the East Lansing venue.
Michigan State (15-2, 5-0) stayed atop the conference standings with a 63-57 win over Illinois on Saturday, but it wasn’t easy. The Spartans rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit, and closed the game with a 12-3 run to win their 11th in a row.
“We didn’t play well and won. That has to say something about your team, character and intestinal fortitude,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Izzo has been concerned with the way his team has played lately, but the Spartans are off to their best start in Big Ten play since opening the 1977-78 season with seven consecutive victories.
“We have gone five games in a row where we haven’t finished very well,” Izzo said. “The battle cry of the week was focus and finish. But now that we’ve finished well, I’m not sure which I like better - playing well for 35 minutes and playing poorly down the stretch or playing poorly for 35 minutes and playing well down the stretch.”
With Saturday’s victory, the Spartans still haven’t lost at home since a 63-54 loss to then-No. 4 Ohio State on Feb. 3, 2007.
The Spartans have played 299 games at the Breslin Center since its opening in 1989, and have never fallen to Northwestern (9-6, 1-4) there. Michigan State has won 21 straight home games over the Wildcats since a 78-69 loss on Jan. 7, 1984 at the Jenison Field House.
While the Spartans have had no trouble playing at home, Northwestern has had its share of trouble on the road lately.
The Wildcats have just two wins in their last 23 road conference games, and have dropped 29 straight games away from Evanston against ranked opponents after a 58-55 victory over then-No. 16 Minnesota on Jan. 6, 1999.
The Spartans and Wildcats have already met this season, as Michigan State won 77-66 at Northwestern on Jan. 3 for its 12th straight victory in the series, and 39th in 41 meetings.
The Wildcats led 33-32 at halftime, but Michigan State opened the second half on a 12-0 run to take control of the game.
Leading scorer Raymar Morgan (14.8 ppg) had 22 in the win over Northwestern, but finished with just eight against the Illini.
Kalin Lucas, who is averaging 13.7 points, also struggled on Saturday, as he finished with 10 on 3-of-13 shooting. He had 17 against the Wildcats.
Despite its recent struggles, Northwestern defeated then-No. 18 Minnesota 74-65 on Sunday to snap an 18-game losing streak against ranked opponents.
The Wildcats, who have finished last in the Big Ten each of the past two seasons, had dropped 26 of 27 conference regular-season games.
“We knew we were capable,” said guard Craig Moore, who finished with 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting - all from 3-point range. “We just had to finish it.”
Moore had 16 points on 4-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc in the loss to Michigan State earlier this month.
Kevin Coble, who is averaging a team-high 14.6 points for Northwestern, finished with 17 against the Spartans. He had 20 on Sunday.