Tonight the top ranked Michigan State (7-0) basketball team will play host at the Breslin Center to the 25th ranked, North Carolina Tar Heels(4-2). This game is part of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In the challenge, the Spartans are 6-7, and this will be the fifth time the Spartans will face the Tar Heels in the event. The teams have split the challenge series so far at two games apiece, with the Tar Heels taking the victory in the last challenge match in 2009.
North Carolina leads the overall series between these two teams at 11-3. The most memorable match was the 2009 NCAA Championship game held at Detroit’s Ford Field, where the Spartans fell 89-72.
A lot of eyes will be on Michigan State senior Keith Appling, who has been a main catalyst for the Spartan’s success so far this season. The Detroit, MI native is in his third year as a starter and is leading the team in assist with a 5.6 per game average. He also averages 16.9 points per game and has shown tremendous improvement with his three point shot, shooting .522 from behind the arch.
Sophomore Gary Harris joins Appling in the backcourt. He currently leads the team in scoring with 17.7 points per game. The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year had a great offensive night in his last game against the Oklahoma Sooners. He led the team in scoring with 21 points in the 87-76 victory.
One of the major keys to any Spartan victory is how they crash the boards. Working the paint tonight for MSU will be senior Adreian Payne and Junior Branden Dawson, who are notching rebounds to the tune of 7.7 and 9.7 rebounds per game respectively.
The Tar Heel to watch out for tonight will certainly be sophomore guard Marcus Paige. The Marion, IA native leads NC in scoring at 20.8 per game. His best game so far this year was the 32 points he put up on No. 3 ranked Louisville Cardinals in the 93-84 Tar Heel victory. He is a skilled multi-dimensional player, averaging 1.5 steals, .933 at the free-throw line, and s currently shooting .447 from behind the arch.
Tip off will take place at 9 pm Eastern Time and the game will air live on ESPN.
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