The MSU Spartans are known for being stellar on the defense. The stats back this up. Michigan State’s leading rebounder, Adreian Payne, averages 6.9 rebounds per game. Nnanna Egwu for the Illinois Illini averages about 4.9 per game. MSU’s scoring defense average is 58.6 and the Illini’s scoring defense average is 66.0. MSU’s Field Goal percentage for defense is .384 compares with UI’s .420. Three pointer defense averages are .313 for MSU and .343 for UI.
Keith Appling is on the Cousy list, one of twenty for the Bob Cousy Award an award that honors the top point guard in NCAA basketball. Thus far, he ties forth for assists in the Big Ten Conference (4.1 per game average), third in steals (2.0 per game), and eighth in assist to turnover ratio (1.7). Overall he ranks sixth in steals (1.6 per game) and assists (4.1 average per game). He will be one of the defensive players to watch in this match-up.
Brandon Dawson is also a defensive force to be reckoned with for the Spartans. He has recorded a career best 39 steals (1.8 per game) and 22 blocks (1.0 per game) and Payne is right there with 24 blocks (1.1 per game). In the two games the Spartans lost during the conference this year, they allowed only 75.5 points on .50 or greater shooting.
Michigan State will also need to limit their own turnovers while forcing turnovers on the other team. So far this season, the team has been averaging 14+turnovers per game. That’s just too many balls to give up. If the Spartans can do this, and they limit the opportunities for the Illini to score (the team leads for 3-point shots in the Big 10 Conference), then they have a good shot at winning this match-up.