Spartans set sights on Ragin' Cajuns

Nov 25, 2012 - 3:54 PM East Lansing, MI (Sports Network) - The No. 15 Michigan State Spartans will try to take down their 67th unranked non-conference opponent in a row when they host the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at the Breslin Center.

The Ragin' Cajuns fell to 2-3 their last time out as they suffered a 22-point setback to New Mexico State. Their only win over a Division I opponent came in their season-opening bout with Oakland (90-79). Louisiana then went on a two- game slide which consisted of a couple of hard-fought setbacks at Texas Southern (74-71 OT) and Boise State (63-57). The streak ended with a win over Southern-New Orleans, but the team could not string together wins. Bob Marlin, now 32-34 in his third year at Louisiana.

The amount of success Tom Izzo has found as Michigan State's coach over the past 17 seasons is rivaled by very few. His Spartans always seem to be a contender to win the NCAA Championship, and this year is no different. Although MSU opened up the season with a 66-62 loss to the now Kevin Ollie led Connecticut Huskies, it bounced back with a three-point win over a top ten Kansas Jayhawks team. Then the team reeled off three wins in a row in the Spartan Showcase at Breslin, all versus unranked non-conference foes. The Spartans easily cruised past Texas Southern and Oakland, but narrowly survived their matchup with Boise State (74-70) after converting just 6-of-19 attempts from beyond the arc and 16-of-25 at the charity stripe.

The all-time series between Michigan State and Louisiana is tied with each team winning once. These teams have not squared off since 1982.

Louisiana fell behind 10-0 to NMSU its last time out and could never erase the deficit. The Cajuns shot just 18.5 percent from the floor in the first half and was dominated on the glass by a 52-30 margin. Mississippi State transfer Shawn Long has become the centerpiece of the team in his first year with the program. The 6-foot-9, 243-pound power forward paces the squad with 15 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game. Sophomore point guard Elfrid Payton adds 10.8 points and 5.2 assists per contest, but he is not going to be settling for too many jumpers (37.7 FG). Brant Mbamalu is a consistent third scoring option.

Michigan State's high level of competition early on has given it a scoring average of 68.4 ppg on 48.5 percent shooting from the field. The team is just 19-of-70 from three-point range, which could lead the trouble down the road if not improved. However, Michigan State has outrebounded all of its opponents, which are netting only 58.6 ppg. The Spartans are charged by junior point guard Keith Appling, who is posting a team-high 16.4 ppg while dishing out four apg. The team is 5-1 in games he scores 20 points or more. While the highly talented freshman guard Gary Harris recovers from a shoulder injury, Branden Dawson (11.2 ppg) and Denzel Valentine (6.8 ppg) will need to play bigger roles. Senior center Derrick Nix is a big reason why MSU dominates the glass as he is grabbing 8.2 rpg.

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