Northwestern probably isn’t too happy to have Michigan State as an opponent in its Big Ten home opener for the third straight season.
The 20th-ranked Spartans have won six straight on the road against the Wildcats, with every victory coming by double digits heading into Monday night’s matchup.
Michigan State (9-4, 1-0) has won by an average of 13.7 points during this run at Northwestern (9-2, 0-1). The last two meetings have been conference home openers for the Wildcats, a 77-66 victory two seasons ago and a 91-70 win last season, when Northwestern was enjoying its first appearance in the Top 25 since 1969.
Perhaps no Spartan has been more responsible for the last two victories than Kalin Lucas, who averaged 19.0 points and 6.5 assists in those games. Lucas enters in a bit of a slump, averaging 12.3 points on 36.1 percent shooting in his last three contests.
The Spartans also beat the Wildcats 79-70 at East Lansing last season, but had trouble defending John Shurna in both 2009-10 meetings. The Northwestern star averaged 30.0 points on 51.2 percent shooting in the two contests.
Shurna leads the Big Ten with 22.2 points per game, but was limited to 11 in an 82-69 loss at No. 12 Purdue on Friday. The forward suffered a sprained ankle in the Wildcats’ previous game Dec. 23 and did not look to be 100 percent.
“Shurna was banged up, and you could tell,” Boilermakers coach Matt Painter said. “If you’ve been around him before, he’s got a big-time motor, and it just didn’t seem like it was quite there.”
The Spartans rallied from a six-point halftime deficit for a 71-62 win over No. 14 Minnesota on Friday. Durrell Summers had 19 points and Draymond Green added 14 as Michigan State overcame 25.8 percent first-half shooting.
“It was frustrating, but I wasn’t upset because I thought 90 percent of the shots we took were good shots,” coach Tom Izzo said. “I told them at halftime to keep shooting.”
Delvon Roe just missed his first double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Back in the starting lineup for the last two games, Roe recorded nine boards each time.
“He has been more active in the last couple of games, just not finishing as well and I really thought he was a big difference,” Izzo said. “Even defensively, he got a little sloppy at the end, but sometimes we put him on guards and that was impressive the way he covered them.”
Summers had one of his best efforts in the last matchup with Northwestern, recording 24 points and 10 rebounds in a 79-70 win Jan. 30. Michigan State shot 54.7 percent in the 2009-10 season series.
Defense remains a problem for Northwestern, which is allowing opponents to shoot a Big Ten-worst 44.2 percent.
Senior guard Michael Thompson scored a game-high 18 points Friday with Shurna hobbled. Thompson averaged 7.5 points on 25.0 percent shooting against Michigan State last season.
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