Four days after playing in the season opener against Connecticut overseas in Germany, the Michigan State basketball team will be right back at it again, this time flying down to Atlanta, Georgia to take on the Kansas Jayhawks on Tuesday night at 7:00 PM.
Kansas comes into this game with a 1-0 record, coming off a 74-55 victory against Southeast Missouri State while Michigan State comes in standing at 0-1 after dropping their first game to Connecticut 62-66.
For Michigan State to win the game Tuesday, they are going to have to come out stronger than they did against UConn Friday night where the Huskies got out to 34-18 lead with 7:46 left in the first half.
The Spartans countered, came back and even managed to take some leads late in the game before falling to Connecticut and eventually losing the game.
On Tuesday, if Michigan State comes out that slow again, it could prove very costly against a very talented team in Kansas.
“We just have to come out mentally prepared to play as hard as we possibly can,” junior guard Keith Appling said.
And the 21st ranked Spartans will have to do just that if they are looking to upend the 7th ranked Jayhawks.
For starters, Kansas is coming off of a season in which they advanced to the National Championship game before falling to Kentucky in the final. Although they lost their top 2 scorers in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, the team still returns three very talented players from a year ago in seniors Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey and Travis Releford.
One of those three players that could give the Michigan State offense fits is center Jeff Withey. Withey is a 7 footer coming off of a game in which he had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots.
That last stat is something to keep an eye on. We have seen in the past how Michigan State struggles against shot-blocking centers. Last year in the Sweet Sixteen, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng blocked 7 shots for the Cardinals, helping Louisville hold Michigan State to just 44 points en route to a victory.
Withey is another shot-blocking center, last year averaging 3.6 per game, and as much as getting out fast will be a key to this game, shooting over and around the outstretched arms of Withey will be just as much a key for this Michigan State team.
“We are going to try and go at him some but we’re also going to hopefully kick the ball out a little bit more,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “The best threes come from inside-out and we didn’t get much of that the last game.”
In the end, there is no doubt that this young Michigan State team is the unquestioned underdog in this matchup. However, with a Tom Izzo lead basketball team, you just never know. In this crucial early season matchup, Michigan State will be fighting to bounce back after a loss and come away with a win to avoid starting the season out 0-2 for the second consecutive year.
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