Orlando Classic action pits Spartans against Broncs

Nov 27, 2014 - 3:27 PM Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 20th-ranked Michigan State Spartans will begin play in the Orlando Classic on Thanksgiving Day, as they take on the Rider Broncs in first-round action at the HP Field House.

The winner of this game will move on to the next round and take on either Marquette or Georgia Tech.

Tom Izzo's Spartans have just one blemish on their early season record and that came at the hands of powerhouse Duke as part of the Champions Classic nine days ago. Michigan State has gained some distance from that loss with a pair of lopsided wins over Loyola Chicago (87-52) and most recently, Santa Clara (79-52).

Kevin Baggett's Broncs have split four games on the docket thus far. The team has a pair of losses to Princeton (64-58) and Kansas (87-60) bracketed around wins over Penn (73-57) and Lehigh (78-74).

This marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams on the hardwood.

Michigan State shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and put the game against Santa Clara out of reach early on, as the Spartans went into halftime up 40-14. Five players notched double digits in the scoring column for MSU, led by Travis Trice's 19 points. Marvin Clark Jr. added 15 points to the cause, while Gavin Schilling finished with 14 and Denzel Valentine and Bryn Forbes tacked on 13 and 10 points, respectively. Schilling recorded his first career double-double with 11 rebounds in the win.

Michigan State has shot the ball extremely well over the first four games, delivering on just under 51 percent of its shots. The result is a solid scoring average of 75.2 ppg. One glaring weakness however, is the team's free- throw shooting, as MSU has converted just 54 percent of the time at the charity stripe (27-of-50). Trice has played lights out in the early going and has proved to be both a prolific scorer (18.0 ppg) and deft distributor (7.0 apg). Branden Dawson (15.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg) is a nice complement up front, while Valentine (10.8 ppg, 5.5 apg) adds to the overall depth.

The Broncs have shot the ball at a decent clip, converting just over 46 percent from the floor, but the team lacks overall scoring depth, averaging a modest 67.2 ppg thus far. A problem that has reared its head early on is the team's inability to consistently rebound, with Rider grabbing just 28.3 boards per game. Teddy Okereafor leads the way in scoring for Rider at 14.3 ppg. Zedric Sadler is next in line at 11.8 ppg, while Jimmie Taylor is just under double digits with his 9.5 ppg.

Going into Lawrence and competing with a powerhouse like Kansas is a tall task indeed. Rider was simply not up to the challenge in the first half and trailed the Jayhawks 51-22 at the break. Despite playing a much better second half and actually outscoring KU over the final 20 minutes, the deficit was simply too large to overcome. Xavier Lundy led the way for Rider with 15 points in just 13 minutes of work off the bench. Okereafor added 10 points, while Sadler finished with nine.

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