No. 1 IU in showdown at No. 4 MSU

LARRY LAGE AP Sports Writer Published:

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Tom Izzo put it best.

"It doesn't get any better or bigger than this," the Michigan State coach said.

Izzo's fourth-ranked Spartans will host the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers -- led by his former assistant and good friend, Tom Crean. Tuesday night's game marks the first time two top-five teams have met at the Breslin Center.

It's the third matchup of top-four teams in college basketball this season, and the second for Indiana, which beat then top-ranked Michigan. It's just the fourth with a pair of Big Ten teams since 1997, according to STATS LLC.

First place in the Big Ten -- and perhaps top seeding in next month's NCAA tournament -- will be at stake with four games remaining in the regular season after this matchup.

And to add to the hype, former Michigan State great Magic Johnson is scheduled to work the game as an ESPN analyst.

"What I'm going to preach to my guys is, these are opportunities that 99 percent of America never get to be a part of," Izzo said.

While Izzo is embracing the significance of the showdown, Crean insisted he won't even mention what is on the line when he talks to his players.

"It's another very big game and right now at Indiana, and I'm sure it's this way at Michigan State, every game is a big game," Crean said. "Not just because it's a great league, but because of where you sit in the league and where you sit nationally.

"Our guys have played in quite a few of these types of games and we've been in some tough environments. There's no question that the environments will be incredibly exciting."

Crean would know, because he was on Izzo's bench in East Lansing from the 1995-96 season -- Izzo's first as a head coach -- through 1998-99, when the Spartans went to their first of three straight Final Fours.

Izzo said coaching against his former colleague is a little like Crean's brothers-in-law -- John and Jim Harbaugh -- competing on opposite sidelines earlier this month in the Super Bowl.

"I don't like doing it," Izzo said. "They didn't like doing it. But I thought John Harbaugh had a great line, 'The only thing that could be worse than this is if one of us didn't make it.'"

The Hoosiers were expected to be great -- ranked No. 1 in the preseason -- and they have been with center Cody Zeller, guard Victor Oladipo and forward Christian Watford leading the way. They've won three straight since losing by two points at Illinois and eight of their last nine games, including a closely contested victory over Michigan State last month.

"Indiana is playing at a level like no other," Izzo said. "They've sustained it the whole year, which, to me, is one of the most impressive things you can do."

The Spartans, without All-America forward Draymond Green, were expected to be in somewhat of a rebuilding mode. Ranked No. 14 in the preseason, they got their first quality victory by beating Kansas and have steadily climbed in the poll by winning five straight and 11 of their last 12 games thanks to a balanced offense and stifling defense.

"Their team is good, and they've been good for a long time," Crean said. "To look at what they're doing now and say, 'Wow, they're doing such a good job,' would discredit what they did in November, December and January."

On Jan. 27 at Assembly Hall, Oladipo had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks to help the Hoosiers hold off Michigan State in a 75-70 win.

Crean said he expects Oladipo to play tonight, three days after he limped off the court with a sprained left ankle in the first half of a win against Purdue and sat out the second half.

Michigan State freshman guard Gary Harris, an Indiana native, said the Spartans will try to stop Oladipo from doing what he does best.

"He guards on the defensive end and gets them going offensively in transition," Harris said. "We just have to be smart, especially on the offensive end because he plays the passing lanes."

The Spartans don't anticipate Travis Trice playing for the first time since he suffered a head injury last month, taking away a backup point guard who played a career-high 30 minutes and matched a career high with five assists when Keith Appling was limited by fouls at Indiana.

That will make it even more important for Appling to stay on the floor. Like Izzo, the junior point guard isn't hiding how fired up he is about the game.

"That's why we came here, to compete for Big Ten championships and potential No. 1 seeds in the tournament," he said. "I definitely embrace it and I think that's one of the things that will help us play harder."


MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Will Spradling scored 19 points and No. 14 Kansas State used a big first-half run to beat West Virginia 71-61 on Monday night, ruining the return of Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins to the school he helped rebuild.

Nino Williams had 13 points, and Angel Rodriguez added 11 points and seven assists for the Wildcats (21-5, 10-3). They slipped into first place in the Big 12 by a half game over ninth-ranked Kansas and No. 14 Oklahoma State.

Deniz Kilicli had 14 points for the Mountaineers (13-13, 6-7), but the rest of their starters combined for 13 points, with two of them getting shut out.

Huggins received a warm reception in his first trip back to Bramlage Coliseum, where he went 23-12 as coach of the Wildcats during the 2006-07 season. Huggins led the program to the NIT, its first postseason appearance in eight years, before leaving for his alma mater.


PITTSBURGH -- Jerian Grant and Jack Cooley scored 13 points each and Notre Dame overcome a horrendous shooting start.

The Irish missed 18 of their first 19 shots and trailed 19-3 as late as 13:54 into the game. However, they rallied to take the lead in the second half and won going away.

Eric Atkins added 10 points and seven assists for Notre Dame (21-6, 9-5 Big East), which has won five in a row over Pittsburgh (20-7, 8-6) and snapped a tie with the Panthers for fourth place in the conference. The top four teams get a double-bye in next month's league tournament.

Tray Woodall had 11 points to lead the Panthers, who lost for the second time in three days since winning seven of eight.



HARTFORD, Conn. -- Brittney Griner scored 25 points, including the 3,000th of her career, to help No. 1 Baylor rally past third-ranked Connecticut 76-70, extending the Lady Bears' winning streak to 23 games.

Griner became the eighth player in Division I history to reach the milestone, doing it on two free throws with 1:05 left. She finished with 21 points in the second half.

The defending national champion Lady Bears' only loss this season came in Hawaii against Stanford back in November. Baylor (25-1) went 40-0 last season en route to the school's second national championship.

Baylor led 54-53 midway through the second half before Griner took over. She scored seven points during the burst, and her putback made it 67-61 with 5 minutes left.

UConn (24-2) rallied behind Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to make it a 67-65, but Griner answered with a putback. Then she hit the two milestone free throws 1:30 later to make it 73-67 and seal the win.

Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 26 points.

Griner had missed key free throws down the stretch when she was a sophomore and her team lost at Connecticut by one point. She wasn't going to let that happen again, beating the only team in the country that she didn't have a winning record against.


DAYTON -- Andrea Hoover scored 20 points and Kelley Austria added 17 off the bench to help Dayton hold off Duquesne for its 10th consecutive victory.

The Flyers (22-1, 10-0 Atlantic 10 Conference) trailed 50-41 before Hoover's basket with 12:17 left sparked a 13-0 run that lasted about 4 1/2 minutes.

Ahjah Hall's two free throws pushed the Dukes (19-6, 8-3) back ahead 57-56 with 3:21 to go, but Ally Malott answered with two foul shots for Dayton 50 seconds later, the final points of the game.

Duquesne missed six shots and committed three turnovers in the final 2 1/2 minutes, including a pair of attempts in the final 8 seconds.

Oditte Odisho paced Duquesne with 14 points off the bench.

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