Michigan State’s Breslin Center is a tough place to play for many Big Ten teams. It’s been an especially rough environment for Iowa.
There’s a good chance that won’t change Wednesday night as the No. 7 Spartans look for their seventh consecutive victory overall and their 15th straight at home over the Hawkeyes.
Michigan State (15-3, 5-0) became the lone unbeaten team in the Big Ten on Saturday after beating Illinois 73-63 for its 16th straight victory at home. The Spartans are 26-3 in league play at Breslin since the start of the 2006-07 season.
“There’s an intimidation factor here,” said Spartans forward Delvon Roe, who had 15 points against the Illini. “Teams start to say, `I don’t know if we can play with these guys for 40 minutes.”’
Iowa has reason to be intimidated. The Hawkeyes (7-11, 1-4) have dropped 14 straight in East Lansing since winning 96-90 in overtime Jan. 28, 1993. Only Indiana (15) has lost more consecutive Big Ten games at Michigan State.
It won’t get any easier for Iowa, which faces a Spartans team that’s in the midst of its longest winning streak to open league play since starting 7-0 in 1977-78.
“It does beat the hell out of the alternative,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “I guess you could say destiny is in our own hands. But unfortunately, there’s 13 games left.”
Defense has been the key to the Spartans’ early success in conference play. Though five games, Michigan State is holding Big Ten opponents to 57.2 points per game on 37.0 shooting.
Iowa shot 39.2 percent in a 71-53 home loss to the Spartans on Jan. 9. That’s on par with their 39.7-percent clip in their last 10 games at the Breslin Center.
Kalin Lucas had 14 points and Draymond Green added 14 with 11 rebounds in the matchup earlier this month to help Michigan State win its fourth straight overall matchup against the Hawkeyes.
Lucas, who scored 20 points against Illinois, is averaging a team-leading 15.7 on the season and 14.0 with 4.7 assists in his last three games against Iowa.
Averaging 10.9 points and a team-best 7.8 boards, the sophomore Green continues to provide a spark for a Spartans bench that’s averaging 29.8 points.
“He might be the key to the team,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said of Green. “He’s a big difference-maker for him right now.”
Michigan State’s bench could again see major minutes against Iowa, which is averaging 54.3 points and shooting 39.7 percent while going 0-3 on the road this season.
The Hawkeyes, however, are coming off their first league victory, 67-64 over last-place Penn State on Saturday. Sophomore Aaron Fuller had 20 points and 10 rebounds while Matt Gatens added 14 in Iowa’s second straight victory overall after losing four in a row.
Gatens is averaging 12.7 points in three career games against Michigan State, but Fuller could be the key to the Hawkeyes’ upset hopes. The sophomore forward is averaging 22.0 points and 10 boards in his last two games.
Iowa has lost 13 in a row against ranked opponents since beating then-No. 6 Michigan State 43-36 on Jan. 12, 2008.
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