Michigan State coach Tom Izzo might have been displeased with his team’s latest effort, but he can’t be unhappy about how Raymar Morgan has played lately.
Based on his performance against The Citadel last season, Morgan could continue his stellar play for the 12th-ranked Spartans on Monday night in Charleston, S.C.
After falling at then-No. 10 North Carolina to open this month, Michigan State (6-2) put together a sluggish performance in a home win over unheralded Wofford on Friday night. The Spartans fell behind 9-4 in the first five minutes and led by just two with 12:47 remaining before pulling away for the 72-60 victory.
“Oh, how I wish this was HBO,” Izzo said after the game. “I thought their team played with a lot of heart. And I don’t think mine did. … We’ve got a lot of guys not playing very well and some not playing well at all. We’ve got to start playing for the name on the front of the uniform and not the name on the back.”
It’s doubtful Izzo was talking about Morgan, who had a season-high 19 points and 11 rebounds while going 7 for 11 from the field. Since missing all seven shots in a scoreless performance against Florida on Nov. 27, the senior forward has averaged 18.0 points and shot 71.0 percent (22 of 31) over the past three games.
Morgan, who has overcome injuries to both ankles, has a good chance to continue his resurgence against The Citadel (6-4). He had one of the best performances of his career as the Spartans beat the Bulldogs 79-65 at home last season, scoring 26 points on 11-of-12 shooting and grabbing 10 rebounds. Durrell Summers and Chris Allen added 12 points apiece off the bench.
Morgan also hit three of his four shots and scored 10 points in Michigan State’s first meeting with The Citadel, a 73-41 win on Nov. 12, 2006. That was the third game of Morgan’s college career.
This time, the Spartans will face one of the nation’s best defensive teams in the Bulldogs, who are allowing 57.2 points per game.
There’s also plenty of buzz on their campus as they prepare to host a ranked team for the first time in 11 seasons.
“This is a game that our students, fans and alumni should embrace and remember for a long time,” coach Ed Conroy told the school’s Web site. “Michigan State is among college basketball’s elite every year and we are excited to compete against them in front of our home fans.”
The Bulldogs, however, are 0-5 all-time at home against AP Top 25 teams and 0-33 overall, including a 69-50 loss at No. 8 West Virginia on Nov. 24.
Their chances for a monumental upset will likely depend on whether junior guards Zach Urbanus and Cameron Wells can continue their respective scoring streaks.
Urbanus is trying to score 20 or more points for the fourth straight game after leading the team with 20 in Saturday’s 68-43 victory over visiting Georgia Southern. Wells, leading The Citadel with 17.4 points per game, added 14 to reach double figures for the 14th consecutive game dating to last season.
Wells scored 14 points in last season’s loss to the Spartans, while Urbanus had three. Swingman Austin Dahn, now a junior, led the Bulldogs with 17.
In its second consecutive matchup against a Southern Conference team, Michigan State will try to improve to 7-0 all-time against the league.