Tom izzo’s desire to defeat his team’s main rival hasn’t waned over the years.
The longtime Michigan State head coach never views a matchup against Michigan as just another game. And that’s the case this season as the Spartans host the Wolverines in East Lansing on Saturday afternoon.
“Winning the battle of the state means the world to me,” he said. “I grew up in this state, I’ve recruited a ton of kids from this state and I still live in this state. So, it will always mean something as long as I’m here.”
Michigan center Hunter Dickinson knows all about the rivalry. Dickinson averaged 29 points in the two meetings last season, with each team collecting a home victory.
“I wasn’t expecting to go in and get applauded out there (in East Lansing),” he said. “They don’t like us and we don’t like them.”
There’s plenty of things to like about the teams’ recent outings. Michigan State (10-4, 2-1 Big Ten) carries a five-game winning streak into the showdown, including a 74-56 home win over Nebraska on Tuesday.
It’s helped that the level of competition has gone down during that stretch.
“I’m not confident in this team yet. We had one good game,” Izzo said. “We’ve played decent in the last couple of games, but the competition hasn’t been the same as it was during that (first) 11 games in 30 days.”
The Wolverines (9-5, 3-0) bounced back from a stunning home loss to Central Michigan on Dec. 29 by defeating Maryland and Penn State. Michigan and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten teams without a conference loss.
Dickinson had a team-high 17 points in the 79-69 victory over the Nittany Lions on Wednesday.
“We’ve got enough offensive firepower and we saw that (Wednesday) – the balanced scoring that we had with four guys in double figures and there were two guys very close to being in double figures,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “We have to make sure that we become a defensive team before we start thinking about points.”
Dickinson leads the Wolverines in scoring at 18.7 points per game, followed by guard Jett Howard at 14.6. Tyson Walker tops Michigan State at 13.9 points, just ahead of Joey Hauser (13.8).