Michigan State guard Travis Trice (20) expects Penn State to bring plenty of energy Thursday night. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
East Lansing — Michigan State is getting Adreian Payne back in the lineup Thursday night, but it’s not getting any breaks when it comes to who it is playing.
In many seasons, a visit from Penn State would be chalked up as a victory, but those days have disappeared. The Nittany Lions pushed the Spartans at Penn State early this season, leading by seven at halftime before Michigan State rallied for the victory.
And now Penn State comes in the winner of three straight after dropping its first six games in conference play.
“There’ll be no easy games from here on out,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “If you would’ve asked me in August, ‘If you could be 8-1 and you got Penn State, Northwestern and Nebraska coming to your place, do you feel pretty good?’ I would have said, ‘Yeah, I feel pretty good.’ Doesn’t make me feel any better today.
“Out of all those teams, (Penn State) has beaten good teams, they’ve played real good teams right to the wire and Penn State is for real. They’re well-coached, they’ve got experience, they got great guard play, they’ve got seniors, fifth-year guys and we’re going to have to play a lot better than we did on Saturday for sure.”
No. 9 Michigan State is coming off a loss last weekend against Georgetown in New York. It now jumps back into conference play against a team that is starting to put things together.
After opening Big Ten play with the loss to Michigan State and a blowout at the hands of Illinois, Penn State lost three of the next four games by a combined seven points.
“It’s been a crazy year in the Big Ten,” guard Travis Trice said. “If you look at some of the teams that have gone on winning streaks and some of the teams that have lost a few in a row, you’d be surprised.
“I’ve definitely watched (Penn State) and they’re doing a great job right now. They’re on a roll. They’ve got more wins in a row than they have since I’ve been watching Big Ten basketball. I know they’re going to come in with a lot of energy.”
Junior guard D.J. Newbill has provided much of that energy, averaging 20 points and 6.3 rebounds during the win streak and was named co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday. Newbill leads the team in scoring at 17.6 points a game and fifth-year senior guard Tim Frazier, who is back after rupturing his Achilles last year, is scoring 16.2 points per game.
“I think Newbill is playing unbelievably well,” Izzo said. “Frazier is one of my favorite guys because of what he has gone through and how he has played. He’s come back from that injury and he's really bounced back well.”