MSU confident it can adapt to UM's game

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Michigan State has had to play its share of different lineups this season — some by choice and some out of necessity.

But heading into Saturday’s matchup at Michigan, it seems No. 10 Michigan State’s ability to adapt to any style game could be an advantage. The Wolverines are a perimeter-oriented team, and that will be the challenge.

The Spartans have done it before, however, and even though they’ve been playing bigger lineups recently, they have the depth to adjust.

“You got to look at what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are and the one thing that is a strength is almost 50 percent of their shots are threes,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “So that creates one issue and you know we’re gonna have different lineups. There’s no question about it. We’re gonna have different lineups, meaning we’ll have a small lineup, we’ll have a big lineup, we can go either way.”

Michigan starts four guards, all with the ability to score from the perimeter. The Wolverines are shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range, second in the Big Ten, with Duncan Robinson shooting a conference-best 48.7 percent. Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. is shooting 44.9 percent while Aubrey Dawkins is at 45.9 percent.

Zak Irvin (32.3 percent) and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (47.1 percent) are also effective attacking the basket.

While it could prove to be a difficult matchup for some of Michigan State’s forwards, especially Deyonta Davis and Kenny Goins, it also could mean more minutes for players like Javon Bess and Marvin Clark

“Every game is an adjustment but we’re not worried because we’re so deep we can play however we want,” senior guard Denzel Valentine said. “We’ve got Marv, we’ve got J.B., we’ve got Kenny. We’ve got a lot of guys and we’ll be ready to play.

“I think this can be a breakout game for one of those guys. J.B. has made some big-time plays and so has Marv.”

Defending the Wolverines, however, is one aspect of the game.

Michigan will have to guard Michigan State, as well, and that would give the Spartans an advantage with players like Davis on the floor at the same time as center Matt Costello.

Davis, last week’s Big Ten freshman of the week, has started three straight games and is shooting 63.6 percent. He’s also recorded 47 blocks, the most for a Michigan State freshman.

If he proves he can guard the perimeter, he’ll be a matchup nightmare for the Wolverines.

“We’ll kind of see how the flow of the game goes and I think that’s one of our advantages, we can play both ways,” Izzo said. “How that will work out, I don’t know. I don’t even know who is gonna play for them yet.”

That variable is Michigan’s Caris LeVert, who hasn’t played since Dec. 30. There’s a chance he could be back Saturday.

“It’s not something I’m concerned with because we feel like we’re gonna be prepared both ways,” Izzo said. “Not only for who they play but how we want to play as the game goes on.”

Michigan State at Michigan

Tip-off: 2 p.m. Saturday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor

TV/radio: CBS/WJR, WWJ

Records: No. 10 Michigan State 19-4 (6-4 Big Ten), Michigan 17-6 (7-3)

Outlook: Michigan State has won once (2014-15) the last five trips to Ann Arbor. … This is the only regular-season meeting between the teams. … Michigan is second in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting (40.8 percent), and Michigan State is third (40.5).