Adreian Payne is emerging as a dominant force inside.
Branden Dawson is starting to round into the form he displayed in the late stages of his freshman season.
Things are starting to come together for the Michigan State men’s basketball team, which has won five straight since dropping a road contest to Minnesota in its Big Ten opener on Dec. 31.
But as the Spartans enter tonight’s contest at Wisconsin (7 p.m., ESPN), coach Tom Izzo is looking for more from the guards.
“It’s our guards that have got to play a little better,” Izzo said Monday. ‘If they play better this team’s gonna take another step forward which is the next thing we have to do.”
MSU’s backcourt players have struggled some during Big Ten play.
Travis Trice is shooting 31.7 percent from the field in conference play. Freshman Denzel Valentine, who is coming off the bench with Payne now in the starting lineup, has 17 assists and 16 turnovers in Big Ten games.
Freshman Gary Harris has been the Spartans’ leading scorer in Big Ten play at 13.2 points per game but is shooting 28.6 percent from the field (8-for-38) over the last three games.
Recently named captain Keith Appling is averaging 11.3 points in conference play but is shooting just 33.8 percent from the field and has made just 13.3 percent of his 3-pointers.
“Our two freshmen both talked to me (Sunday) night and they realize they’ve gotta play better. We gotta get more scoring out of them and Keith’s gotta shoot it better and we’ve gotta get Trice more involved,” Izzo said. “Trice looks so thin out there. He’s having trouble keeping on weight. I think he’s wearing down a little bit. He was shooting the ball so well. We’ve just gotta get those guards a little more involved.
“As I said I still like the pieces. I think the frame of the puzzle is getting there but the meat and potatoes of it isn’t there yet.”
Follow Graham Couch for the updates from tonight’s game. Here is his tipoff with all the game information and his prediction. And here’s another story about Appling being counted on in the clutch. There’s also this week’s Big Ten power rankings in a blog entry from earlier today.
Also taking place tonight, the MSU hockey team faces the U.S. National Team Developmental Program U-18 team at Munn at 7 tonight.
Also a few other notes on the recruiting front. MSU 2014 wide receiver commit Drake Harris tweeted this morning that Alabama was at his school and offered him. 2013 MSU linebacker commit Jon Reschke was rated the No. 149 player nationally in the newly updated Rivals 250.
SI.com also has its way too early look at its college football top 25 for 2013. MSU isn’t listed, but here is how they have the Big Ten teams rated. Ohio State (5), Michigan (12), Northwestern (21), Nebraska (22). Among the things that SI points out is that Urban Meyer won a national title in his second year at Florida and also went 13-0 in his second season at Utah.