East Lansing, MI (Sports Network) - The 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans entertain the Tuskegee Golden Tigers on Saturday night in the first basketball game played at Jenison Fieldhouse since 1989.
The Spartans played at Jenison from 1940-89 before moving to the Breslin Center. This event is to celebrate the 50th anniversary season of the Game of Change between Mississippi State and Loyola-Chicago in the 1963 NCAA Tournament.
Tuskegee hasn't been very active in the first month of the season, playing just five games. The Golden Tigers lost their first four matchups before finally claiming their first victory on Dec. 4, in a 68-65 decision versus the University of Montevallo.
Michigan State opened up its season with a loss to UConn in the Armed Forces Classic in Germany (66-62), but since then it has won eight of nine bouts, with its only other defeat coming on the road against Miami-Florida (67-59). All but one of the Spartans' wins have come in East Lansing, and they most recently took down Loyola-Chicago at home last Saturday, 73-61.
This tilt marks the first-ever matchup between these two schools in men's basketball .
Tuskegee has been the underdog in most of its games this season, as it shoots a low 36.6 percent from the field and allows its opponents to score 78.6 ppg, nearly 10 ppg more than it scores (69.2 ppg). The Tigers' poor shooting continued in their latest game against Montevallo (.377), but they were able to overcome a first-half deficit to hold on for their first win. Javier McKinney led the way with 21 points, while Calvin Thomas chipped in with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Josh Jones came off the bench and tallied a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. McKinney has been Tuskegee's go-to guy thus far, as he averages 20.2 ppg and a drains better than 40 percent of his three-point tries. Thomas is the unit's second option, putting up 16.0 ppg and 5.4 rpg, but he does so on a woeful shooting percentage (.286).
After finding itself down by two at home to Loyola-Chicago at intermission, Michigan State responded by shooting 56.5 percent from the field after halftime to pull away for the 12-point victory. Sparking the comeback was Gary Harris, who scored 20 points on 7-of-11 from the field, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range. The Spartans also got a couple of key performances off the bench, with Adreian Payne logging a double-double consisting of 14 points and 10 boards, and Travis Trice netting 11 points while draining all six of his free throw attempts. On the season, the Spartans have found success behind their fantastic defense (.363, 56.4 ppg), but they are no slouches shooting the ball either, making 48.5 percent of their field goal attempts for just under 70 ppg. The catalyst has been Keith Appling, who not only leads the squad in scoring (14.6 ppg), but also adds 3.6 rpg, 4.5 apg and 1.5 spg to the mix. Harris (13.0 ppg) is a high-energy guard, knocking down more than 53 percent of his total shots. Branden Dawson chips in with 10.4 ppg, and Dawson (5.5 rpg), Payne (7.5 rpg) and Derrick Nix (6.9 rpg) are all solid rebounders.