Texas Southern-Michigan St. Preview
By JORDAN GARRETSON
(AP) -- Some criticized Tom Izzo's penchant for tough scheduling after Michigan State's disappointing loss in its opener. The benefits surfaced just four days later.
Now, the No. 21 Spartans may not be challenged for a while as they return to East Lansing to play Texas Southern in the first of four straight home games against lesser competition.
The Spartans are seeking their 36th consecutive win in a home opener. They last lost one in 1975 to Western Michigan.
Michigan State (1-1) is fresh off a 67-64 win over No. 7 Kansas on Tuesday. The Spartans looked less than stellar four days earlier in a 66-62 loss to now-23rd-ranked Connecticut in Germany. They shot 37.5 percent from the floor in that defeat but bounced back to hit 52.1 percent Tuesday.
"We got a little bit of our pride and character back after not playing well over there (in Germany)," Izzo said. "The trip wasn't easy. It shows we have a lot of character."
Izzo's team looked headed to an 0-2 start, though, as Kansas held a 59-54 lead with five minutes left. Freshman Gary Harris made back-to-back baskets - he finished with 18 points - and free throws from Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson helped give the Spartans the lead. Keith Appling scored five of his 19 points in the final 1:36 to seal the victory.
"The offense was kind of stagnant, so I wanted to make a play the best way I possibly could," said Appling, averaging a team-high 18.0 points after posting 11.4 per game last season as a sophomore.
The Spartans have played at least two ranked teams in the non-conference portion of their schedule every season since 2007. They've also showed little preference on the location of those games, playing Connecticut in an Air Base hangar and Kansas at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, the site of this year's Final four.
The schedule now looks a little cozier with Texas Southern, Boise State, Oakland, and Louisiana-Lafayette all in a row at home. Michigan State has won 18 straight and 41 of 42 home games against unranked opponents.
The Tigers (1-2) have lost all 12 of their matchups with Top 25 foes over the past decade, and none have been closer than 16 points.
Texas Southern is coming off a 74-71 home victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday. Leading scorer Raymond Penn (18.3 per game) tallied 17.
But the Tigers struggled against another Big Ten team in their previous game, falling 79-49 to Northwestern on Tuesday.
Their only meeting with Michigan State came a year ago to the day of this game, losing 76-41 in East Lansing. Dawson led all scorers with 13, and he enters this matchup averaging 13.5 points and 4.0 steals.
The Spartans will be without reserve guard Travis Trice, who suffered a concussion in the loss to Connecticut.
Updated November 17, 2012