East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans tip off a season-long seven-game homestand at the Breslin Center on Saturday afternoon with a non-conference matchup against the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions.
UAPB has had a rough go of it early in the season with just one win in its first seven contests. The Golden Lions are currently losers of four straight, most recently dropping an 81-60 decision at Akron on Tuesday.
Michigan State is in the midst of a rare two-game losing streak after losing to Kansas on Sunday (61-56) and Notre Dame on Wednesday (79-78 in OT). The Spartans are 5-3 on the season and will surely endure a drop in the ranks when the next poll is released, but they'll enjoy a return home where they've won 48 of the past 54 games.
The Spartans dismissed the Golden Lions in the only previous meeting between the squads in December of 2012, 76-44.
The Golden Lions actually held a five-point lead early in the second half of their latest game but quickly lost control by allowing Akron to rip off a furious 23-0 run, as they went on to suffer the 21-point loss. They shot just 40.4 percent from the field, were outscored at the foul line (24-7) and were dominated in the rebounding battle (43-25). The two lone bright spots in the setback were Marcel Mosley and JoVaughn Love, who both scored 20 points on a combined 6-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc.
UAPB has had difficulty scoring points all season long, as it owns lackluster percentages from the field (.372) and the free-throw line (.690) on its way to just 54.9 ppg, nearly 16 points less than it allows on the other end (70.3 ppg). Mosley is the go-to scoring option with 16.1 ppg, although he also turns the ball over more than four times per game. Love is the only other player in double figures with 12.7 ppg.
The Spartans faced a three-point deficit to Notre Dame in the final minute of regulation before Denzel Valentine's 3-pointer sent the game to overtime, but they never led the extra session as they suffered their second straight loss. Although the Spartans shot an impressive 49.2 percent from the field, including 9-of-17 from 3-point range, they shot just 5-of-9 from the foul line, compared to 20-of-25 for Notre Dame. Valentine was outstanding despite the loss with 22 points on 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Bryn Forbes was a perfect 7-of-7 (4-of-4 from long range) for 18 points, while Branden Dawson logged a double-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds.
Even though Michigan State has struggled of late, it has still impressed on both ends of the floor this season, as it shoots 48.7 percent from the field for 73.9 ppg while allowing just 62.1 ppg and 38.5 percent shooting. It also owns a lofty +8.1 rebounding margin. Valentine (15.4 ppg) and Travis Trice (15.3 ppg) are neck-and-neck for the scoring lead, and the duo has combined to knock down 43-of-99 from 3-point range. Dawson is a nightly double-double threat with 11.0 ppg and 9.3 rpg, while Forbes brings 10.1 ppg to the table.