If Michigan State isn’t playing a big-name opponent, a matchup with one always seems to be right around the corner.
The sixth-ranked Spartans will tune up for another major showdown when they try for their 51st consecutive non-conference home victory Saturday against Bowling Green.
Michigan State (5-2) always plays a fairly tough schedule, and this season is no exception. The Spartans lost to an unranked Connecticut squad that has since moved into the Top 10, beat then-No. 13 Washington on Nov. 24 and fell 84-79 at top-ranked Duke on Wednesday in their last game.
After hosting Bowling Green (1-6), the Spartans travel to New York to face No. 8 Syracuse on Tuesday in the Jimmy V Classic. Coach Tom Izzo’s rigorous scheduling policy has helped him lead Michigan State to six of the last 12 Final Fours.
He was somewhat satisfied with the effort against the Blue Devils. Michigan State shot 49.2 percent and held a 37-31 edge on the glass. Reserve Korie Lucious led the way with 20 points.
“You know what?” said Izzo, whose team has suffered two losses within the first seven games for the third straight season. “We just might be a team to be reckoned with down the road. But it’s still going to be a little ways down the road which I thought, and hopefully we build off this game.”
Kalin Lucas had 13 points as he works his way back from an ankle injury that hampered him during the preseason. He’s averaging a team-high 17.0 points, but Izzo feels he has room for improvement.
“We’re on the road and we’ve been on the road, and we still have to get Kalin back,” Izzo said. “I just didn’t see that jet speed out of him that I saw out of these other guards, and that’s expected.”
A bigger issue appears to be Durrell Summers’ production. The senior guard has averaged 12.0 points in the games against UConn, Washington and Duke after an 11-point performance Wednesday.
“That’s still a concern of mine,” Izzo said. “He’s got to do a little bit more. He’s not doing well and getting 11 or 12 points so there’s something encouraging in that still.”
Summers is averaging 20.0 points in three games against the lesser competition Michigan State has faced at home, where the Spartans have not lost to a non-conference foe since a 72-50 loss to the Blue Devils on Dec. 3, 2003.
Bowling Green does not figure to be much of a threat. The Falcons have lost five straight, falling 56-55 to Albany on Sunday in their last game.
Leading scorers Dee Brown and Scott Thomas average 10.6 points. Bowling Green is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation at 24.0 percent.
The Spartans lead the series, 8-3 and won 85-69 on Dec. 27, 2000, in the last meeting. The Falcons, though, have won three of four matchups against ranked Michigan State teams.