Rutgers gets another tough test against Michigan State (December 5, 2017)



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PISCATAWAY, NJ – Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said that "the calendar gods have blessed us" by having their Scarlet Knights open Big Ten against two qualifying teams in three days.

Rutgers (6-2, 0-1 Big Ten) dropped a 89-67 decision at Minnesota's No. 14 on Sunday and will face No. 3 Michigan State (7-1, 1-0) on Tuesday at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

The first two games begin the conference The game is because the Big Ten tournament moved a week to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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"It's a great opportunity to play the best team at home," admitted Pikiell. "You look at the schedule as it comes and you try to play your best basketball." Those are the things you can control.

"Certainly, we have the toughest test in the league right now. These teams are playing at an elite level. "

The trip to New Jersey will be Michigan State's first real game this season, the Spartans were just 2-7 at the Breslin Center last season, including 2-6. in the Big Ten.

"It will be a difficult change, but a great game for us," said Spartans coach Tom Izzo. "If you have aspirations to win the conference, these are the types of games you have to win.

"Sometimes they are harder to win than the bigger games, we're going to go out and try to be as fresh as possible and see what we can do."

The Spartans lead the series 5-0 and have won all four meetings since Rutgers joined Big Ten. Michigan State has enjoyed an average victory margin of 28.5 points in the four conference games. The Izzo team has scored at least 90 points in each of the last three games between the schools.

The Spartans rank first in the nation in percentage defense of field goals, keeping opponents 34.2 percent, just ahead of Valparaiso (34.3). Only Notre Dame and Stony Brook have made more than 40 percent of their shots against them.

Michigan second-year students Miles Miles, Joshua Langford, Cbadius Winston and Nick Ward have accounted for 66.3 percent of the team's scores, 42.6 percent of their rebounds and 56.4 percent of the team's badists.

While the Michigan State starters have scored most of the points, team depth has been a factor. Ten Spartans average more than 10 minutes per game while 12 average more than five minutes. Six different players have led Michigan State in scoring and three different players have led the team in rebounds

. The Spartans are averaging 15.1 points from the bench, led by Matt McQuaid (6.0 points).

Junior guard Corey Sanders leads Rutgers with 12.6 points and 3.9 badists by adding 4.8 rebounds. He is one of four players who score in double figures, accompanied by rookie guard Geo Baker (11.5 points per game), forward Elder Deshawn Freeman (11.4 points per game) and Eugene Omoruyi (10.9 points per game, 5.3 rebounds) .

Freeman ranks third in the Big Ten in rebounds and Rutgers is second in the conference in rebounding margin (plus-11.3), behind only the State of Michigan.

The Scarlet Knights lead the league in scoring defense (56.3 ppg) and second in the conference in defense of field goal percentage (36.5).

In his weekly conference call, Pikiell made a plea to the Rutgers students.

"Our players are excited and play better when the students are there," said Pikielll. "I hope we have a great participation and that the RAC (Rutgers Athletic Center) is a difficult place to play, because we are going to need everyone."

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