Michigan State has counted on its reserves to help overcome injuries and provide depth against tougher opponents.
While the next game won’t be against an elite team, it could better prepare coach Tom Izzo as he tries to set his lineup for a more difficult upcoming foe.
Before visiting one of the nation’s top teams, the No. 12 Spartans look to extend their home dominance over unranked, non-conference opponents when they take on Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne on Saturday.
Led by Kalin Lucas, Michigan State (8-2) was an early favorite to win the Big Ten and possibly challenge for a national title. While injuries have made it a slower start than perhaps the Spartans would have liked, Izzo also has received a glimpse at his team’s depth.
A deep bench may especially come in handy Tuesday when Michigan State must go on the road to face second-ranked Texas.
One of the biggest contributors of late has been Draymond Green, who finished with a career-high 19 points and 12 rebounds in an 88-57 win over Oakland, Mich. on Dec. 10.
“I don’t know what (Draymond) had to eat, but he had something,” said Lucas, who also scored 19. “He was being a warrior, hitting his shots and getting ‘and-1s’. I hadn’t see that since high school.”
It was only the third start for Green, the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder with 11.4 points and 8.4 boards per game, and Izzo said he expects to use the sophomore forward mostly off the bench.
“I think he could be the best sixth man in basketball,” Izzo said Monday. “I think he could start especially the way he’s playing right now, but … if I was to go tomorrow, I still would bring him as the first guy off (the bench).”
Izzo said he faces a similar dilemma with Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious, all of whom have seen their roles change throughout the first 10 games. He plans on experimenting to see who fits in what position the best to determine the lineup for the team’s upcoming games.
The Spartans rank among the top 25 in scoring at 82.2 points per game and have five players averaging in double figures. Nine players have started at least one game.
“It’ll be a tough decision,” Izzo said, “one I would rather have made earlier in the non-conference, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
Coming off a break for final exams, Michigan State resumes play at the Breslin Center, where it has won 48 straight against unranked foes from outside the Big Ten since an 81-76 defeat to Toledo on Dec. 30, 2002.
The Spartans’ six home wins this season have been by an average of 21.5 points, holding each opponent below 39 percent from the field.
They’ve been just as successful against the Mastodons, winning all five matchups, including three in East Lansing by an average of 23.3 points.
Michigan State won 70-59 in Fort Wayne last year, led by Raymar Morgan’s 22 points. He was limited to four points against Oakland after averaging 16.3 in his previous four games.
IPFW (3-5) is coming off a 73-52 win over North Dakota last Saturday after losing its previous two games by a combined nine points.
Nick Daniels scored 19 points in the win while Antwone Snead finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.
IPFW is led by Deilvez Yearby, averaging 16.0 points and 8.6 rebounds.
The Mastodons are 0-10 against ranked opponents since joining Division I for the 2001-02 season.