Keith Appling is a big reason for Michigan State's recent success against Wisconsin.
To keep that run going, the ninth-ranked Spartans might have to get by without him.
With Appling's status unclear, Michigan State will try to create some breathing room atop the Big Ten on Sunday and send the Badgers to their longest home losing streak in 27 years.
The Spartans (20-3, 9-1) have won eight of the past 10 meetings with the Badgers (18-5, 5-5), including the last two in Madison by a combined five points. They beat Wisconsin for a fifth straight time overall March 7, winning 58-43 while Appling led the way with 19 points.
The senior guard is averaging 17.4 points over the past five meetings.
A wrist injury may prevent Appling from playing Sunday, however, as Michigan State tries to win seven in a row on the road for the first time since 2008-09.
"It just has been getting worse and worse," coach Tom Izzo said. "He falls a lot. I told him he's got to go to gymnastics class - learn how to fall without landing on your wrist. ... I know this, out of every guy I've got on my team, he's the toughest. If he can play, he'll play."
Appling didn't play Thursday when the Spartans bounced back from their second loss in three games to beat Penn State 82-67. However, Adreian Payne returned from a seven-game absence because of a foot injury to score 12 points off the bench.
Injuries have plagued the Spartans all season, with only Denzel Valentine and Gavin Schilling appearing in every game. Branden Dawson is still out with a broken hand.
Still, Michigan State is atop the Big Ten by one-half game on No. 10 Michigan.
"I just feel that we're in the hunt right now," Izzo said. "After what we've gone through, we're in the hunt, and that's what I told our players. You've got to be in the hunt before you get a chance to win a championship."
Another productive performance from Payne could help.
The senior forward is averaging 15.9 points and 7.4 rebounds, but he's been held to 4.6 and 3.8 while shooting 31.3 percent over the past five games with Wisconsin.
A large part of the Spartans' success over that stretch has been due to their impressive defensive play. They've limited the Badgers to an average of 51.4 points on 32.2 percent shooting - 25.0 from behind the arc.
Wisconsin shot 29.4 percent from the floor March 7, hitting only 4 of 23 3-pointers.
The Badgers haven't been much better of late, averaging 61.3 points while hitting 36.4 percent of their field goals - 25.4 from long range - during a three-game home losing streak.
They haven't lost four in a row as host since Jan. 8-24, 1987.
Wisconsin's recent home slide is part of a 2-5 overall stretch that followed its 16-0 start. The Badgers are trying to get out of the funk by building on Tuesday's 75-63 victory at Illinois, their best offensive showing since beating the then-No. 23 Illini 95-70 on Jan. 8.
"Shooting slumps happen," guard Ben Brust told the team's official website. "But we're all capable shooters, we've proven that. You just have to get the ball, step up to the plate, have confidence and knock it down. It's going to happen sooner or later."
Brust had 10 points while missing 5 of 7 field goals against Michigan State on March 7, but he's entering this matchup averaging 16.7 points in his last three.
Sam Dekker had 16 points Tuesday, but he's totaled 12 in two career games with the Spartans.
- Sports & Recreation
- Keith Appling