Spartans Not Overlooking Anyone

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Tom Izzo knows that Michigan State is expected to win easily, if not register a pair of blowouts, at Northwestern and against Michigan this week.
He understands that the No. 10 team in the country should be held to high standards when it meets two bottom-feeders that already have 10 Big Ten losses.
But he also knows that his Spartans (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) are capable of pratfalls, as proven by a jaw-dropping 43-36 loss at Iowa on Jan. 12.
"Where upsets happen is with the 3-point shot, and they're leading the league in 3-pointers made," Izzo said of the last-place Wildcats (6-9, 0-5). "They're taking 24 a game in the Big Ten, so that's a concern. So are the offense they run and the defense they play. They're unconventional."
Northwestern has attempted 126 more 3-pointers than Michigan State, despite playing three fewer games. But their long-range accuracy is almost the same, and the Spartans have shot better from distance (.348) than the Wildcats (.308) or Sunday afternoon's visitors, the 5-13, 1-5 Wolverines (.303).
"We've got enough veterans around," Izzo said about the danger of looking ahead to an archrival. "They realize that we haven't talked about Michigan, nor will we, until Thursday night. The biggest problem is to make sure that we respect everybody we play."
With four victories on the road, including a 78-73 win on Sunday at Minnesota, Michigan State should be confident about a trip to Evanston, Ill. If the Iowa loss isn't a sobriety check, Izzo can always remind his players that the Magic Johnson-led 1979 National Champions lost by 18 points at Northwestern.
"We're focusing all our attention on them," Izzo said of the Wildcats, who played fairly well on Saturday in a 12-point loss at No. 11 Wisconsin. "Then, we'll turn around and refocus the next day.
"Do I worry about it? Not a lot. I really don't. Would I be sticking my head in the sand if I said it wasn't going to be on somebody's mind? Yeah, I would be. But we're going to try to make sure that doesn't happen in any way, shape or form. Going on the road in the Big Ten, we all know what can happen. And that's how we're trying to approach it."
But the Spartans will need more consistent scoring from their top two starters, forward Raymar Morgan and guard Drew Neitzel, to make a run at a fifth Final Four in 10 seasons.
After scoring 31 in the first game against Minnesota on Jan. 5, Morgan had just 39 in his last four games and missed his first seven free throws in the rematch. Neitzel, who was 3-for-16 from 3-point range in his first three conference games, went 8-for-16 against Ohio State and the Golden Gophers, including five 3-pointers in the second half on Sunday.
"If we'd made some free throws, Raymar would've been at the 15- or 16-point mark," Izzo said. "And it was good to have Drew look like his old self. Those 3s in the second half were big for us and big for him. He hasn't had one of those nights for a while."
Izzo was happiest that his unselfish team has had assists on better than 67 percent of its baskets, though the biggest assist this week could come from an embarrassing loss to Iowa that no one had envisioned.

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