With star Raymar Morgan suffering from a viral infection, Michigan State has needed different players to help carry the team.
The backcourt duo of Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers have been up to the challenge.
Lucas and Summers look to continue their sudden surge and help the ninth-ranked Spartans improve to 17-0 all-time at home against Penn State on Sunday.
Morgan, a preseason all-Big Ten selection, helped Michigan State (17-3, 7-1) climb atop the league standings, but his illness has limited his contributions in the last three games.
The 6-foot-8 junior forward finished with two points in eight minutes off the bench Thursday, but was hardly missed in a 71-56 victory over Iowa.
The backcourt led the way, as Lucas matched his career high with 24 points and Summers added 21 as the Spartans won for the 13th time in 14 games. That tandem has combined for 91 points in the last two games.
“That’s a big dynamic for the team,” Summers said. “How our team is, I think on any given night, a guy can really go off on the offensive end.”
Summers had a career-high 26 points and was 6-of-9 from 3-point range in last Sunday’s 78-67 win at Ohio State after averaging 6.2 points on 32.4 percent shooting—4-of-18 from beyond the arc—in his first six conference games.
Lucas has scored at least 20 points in six of his last nine games after not scoring more than 17 in his first 11.
Neither Lucas nor Summers had stellar performances in Michigan State’s 78-73 win at Penn State (16-5, 5-3) on Jan. 14. While Morgan led the Spartans with 17 points, Lucas added 15 but was 3-of-13 from the field and Summers had 10 points but went 1-of-4 on 3-point tries.
Michigan State led that game by one point with 90 seconds remaining before scoring seven of the game’s final nine points to beat Penn State for the 18th time in 20 games.
The Spartans have never lost to Penn State at home, winning all 16 meetings in East Lansing. They beat the Nittany Lions 86-49 at home last season, and have outscored them by an average of 24.8 points in the last five meetings at the Breslin Center.
Despite Michigan State’s historic dominance of Penn State, it probably won’t take this game lightly.
In their last game at the Breslin Center on Jan. 21, the Spartans had a 28-game home winning streak snapped with a 70-63 loss to Northwestern - their first home loss to the Wildcats since Jan. 7, 1984.
The Nittany Lions are off to their best conference start since beginning the 1995-96 season 6-2, but they open a daunting schedule with five of their next seven games on the road. Penn State has lost nine straight road games against ranked opponents since a 66-65 win over then-No. 6 Illinois on Feb. 4, 2006.
The Nittany Lions should be rested for this game after having a week off since last Saturday’s 63-59 win over Iowa.
The break came at a good time, with Big Ten scoring leader Talor Battle nursing a sore hip and groin in recent weeks.
“Got my wind back, my legs, 100 percent,” Battle said on Friday.
Battle, who is averaging 18.5 points, had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in the loss to the Spartans earlier this season.
The Nittany Lions, who have already surpassed last season’s win total (15), have won three straight games. They have not won four consecutive league games since 1995-96.