Minnesota-Michigan St. Preview

The Associated Press

Michigan State is trying to regain a share of first place in the Big Ten, while looking to further erase the memory of recent back-to-back losses.

It would appear a meeting with Minnesota is just what the No. 10 Spartans need.

Michigan State seeks to continue its domination of the visiting Golden Gophers on Wednesday night.

The Spartans (16-4, 5-2) are tied with fourth-ranked Ohio State for second in the conference - one-half game behind No. 20 Michigan.

They can pull even with the Wolverines by winning consecutive games after losing two straight, including a 60-59 defeat at Ann Arbor on Jan. 17.

Michigan State followed that with Saturday's impressive 83-58 win over Purdue, improving to 12-0 at home this season.

"That was a first-place game," said center Derrick Nix, who scored 12 points against the Boilermakers. "We needed this win to group after two bad losses."

Facing the Golden Gophers (15-5, 3-4) tends to be a favorable matchup for the Spartans, especially at the Breslin Center.

MSU has won 12 in a row at home against the conference rival by an average of 16.5 points, dating to a loss on Jan. 4, 1997. Overall, the Spartans have taken 15 of the last 17 meetings, sweeping the two-game season series in 2010-11.

Draymond Green played a key part in that season sweep of the Golden Gophers, totaling 21 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists. The senior forward leads the Big Ten with a career-high 10.2 rebounds per game, and tops the Spartans with 15.0 points while ranking second at 3.6 assists.

Green, though, has been limited to 15 total points in the last two games, adding 23 rebounds and 10 assists.

Branden Dawson is looking to build on his 14 points from Saturday. The freshman guard was averaging 5.8 points over the previous six games, scoring four points against Michigan.

"This was very big for my confidence, knowing we need all wins we can get to win the Big Ten championship," Dawson told the team's official website. "I watched the tape from the Michigan game and saw that I was lax on defense. I took that into consideration and came out with a lot of energy."

While Michigan State has had little trouble with Minnesota, coach Tom Izzo is wary of the Golden Gophers, who have won three straight, including a 77-74 victory at then-No. 7 Indiana on Jan. 12.

They're holding opponents to an average of 64.0 points on 35.3 percent shooting in those three wins.

"They're a very good shot-blocking team," said Izzo, who is one victory shy of 400. "They're playing 10 guys 10 minutes or more, so they just keep bringing guys at you."

Minnesota is coming off a 75-52 rout of Northwestern on Sunday, as all of the team's starters scored in double-digits with Joe Coleman leading the way with 16 points.

Coach Tubby Smith sees his team's confidence growing.

"We have been right there the whole time, it is just a matter of executing," Smith said. "We added some toughness to our lineup when we inserted Joe Coleman and it has been huge for us. It has been contagious.

"We have a lot more games to play, but the attitudes have been great. When you're winning, that always helps."

Coleman's insertion into the lineup may be having the greatest impact. The freshman guard is averaging 15.3 points in four games as a starter after being used exclusively off the bench in the first 16, averaging 3.7 points.

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