Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan is finishing his senior season in impressive fashion. It will be much sweeter if he can add another Big Ten title to his college resume.
The 11th-ranked Spartans will try to secure a share of a second straight conference championship when they host Michigan on Sunday.
Michigan State (23-7, 13-4) was the sole Big Ten champion last season, winning by a four-game margin, but must win its regular-season finale Sunday to share the title with Ohio State and Purdue.
The Spartans barely defeated woeful Penn State 67-65 on Thursday. After leading by seven at the break, Michigan State trailed by two with 2:32 remaining but Morgan’s two free throws with 12 seconds left gave the Spartans a 66-62 lead.
Morgan finished with 16 points for a second straight game and added eight rebounds, becoming the fifth player in Spartans history with 1,500 points and 700 boards.
“It says a lot about a great college career and hopefully he’ll get rewarded on Sunday,” coach Tom Izzo said.
Morgan is one of three seniors on the Spartans’ roster, along with rarely used reserves Isaiah Dahlman and Jon Crandell, who will be honored for being part of an impressive four-year stretch. During that span, Michigan State has gone 104-35, reached the NCAA tournament round of 16 twice and made the championship game in 2009. Morgan has started 113 games, averaging double figures in scoring each of his four seasons.
“They have a lot of emotion involved with this,” Michigan coach John Beilein said of Sunday’s game. “Raymar Morgan has had a great, great career there. … I know it’s a big goal for Michigan State to at least take a share of it, but I don’t think they need that to get excited about this game.”
The Wolverines have been one of Morgan’s favorite Big Ten opponents. He scored a season-high 20 points in a 57-56 win at Michigan on Jan. 26 and has averaged 16.0 points with 6.5 rebounds over four career games against the Wolverines.
Leading scorer Kalin Lucas was the hero in the last meeting, making a go-ahead jumper with 3.5 seconds left, but he’s struggled recently. The junior guard has averaged 8.7 points over the last three games - about six below his season average - while going 10 of 30 from the field. He has not scored in double figures in any of those three games after failing to do so once in his first 26.
The Spartans have won 10 straight at home over the Wolverines (14-15, 7-10), including nine in a row by double digits.
“It’s been a heck of a year so far,” Izzo said. “Could be a lot better on Sunday.”
Michigan is coming off an 83-55 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday. The Wolverines shot a season-best 60.4 percent and were led by DeShawn Sims, who scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, and Manny Harris, who added 22.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak during which Michigan averaged 50.0 points and shot 31.5 percent. Sims, a senior who averages 17.1 points, scored a total of 28 during the skid.
Harris averages 18.2 points and the Wolverines are 2-8 when he’s held under 18. He scored 16 in the January loss to Michigan State.