Arizona Faces A Spartan Test At Michigan State

Dec. 14, 2001

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The last time Michigan State lost a basketballgame at home, Morris Peterson and Mateen Cleaves were sophomores.

Now, Peterson and Cleaves are second-year players in the NBA and the winningstreak they helped start at home has reached 49 games, the nation's longestactive run.

The Spartans have won those games by an average of 21.4 points and justseven have been decided by single digits.

The streak will be put to a test when No. 6 Arizona (5-1) plays No. 23Michigan State (5-3) Saturday at Breslin Center.

If the Spartans win, they would tie the Big Ten's longest home winningstreak with Ohio State (1959-63) and Indiana (1991-95). The Spartans wouldstill have a long way to go to match Kentucky's record streak of 129consecutive wins at home from 1943-55.

'It just gives us extra motivation,' Michigan State's Kelvin Torbert said.'They're trying to beat us and end our streak, which is a big thing for us andour fans.'

The Wildcats ended the Spartans' hopes for repeating as national championswith an 80-61 win in last season's Final Four. Two years ago, Arizona beatMichigan State 79-68 at home.

About the only thing that will look similar to their last meeting, less thannine months ago, will be the uniforms. Arizona's Jason Gardner and MichiganState's Aloysius Anagonye are the only returning starters.

Arizona coach Lute Olson said the teams are in similar situations with theloss of so many players.

Three Arizona players - Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas and Michael Wright- entered the NBA draft as underclassmen, and Loren Woods left as a senior.

The Spartans lost two players early - Jason Richardson and Zach Randolph -to the NBA. Five seniors, including Charlie Bell and Andre Hutson, are alsogone.

Both teams now count on freshmen. Michigan State's freshmen account for 39percent of the scoring while Arizona's freshmen have been responsible for 38percent of the offense.

So far, Arizona has been able to do a better job of making up for thelosses. It began the season unranked but is now sixth thanks to wins overMaryland, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Purdue.

Michigan State was 15th in the preseason but fell after losing to Syracuse,Fresno State and Florida. A loss Saturday could drop the Spartans out of thepoll, which would end a streak of being ranked at 67 weeks.

'It's an opportunity of a lifetime for us,' Michigan State coach Tom Izzosaid. 'It's a big game for both teams - probably bigger for us, if I was goingto be honest about it. This team needs a big win.'

Olson said Michigan State's home streak gives the Wildcats an 'interestingchallenge.'

Arizona's Gardner most likely will face Marcus Taylor in what may be thedeciding factor. Taylor is averaging 14.4 points and 6.1 assists. Gardner, whochose to return for his junior season after initially declaring himselfeligible for the draft, is averaging 24.2 points, more than four 3-pointers and4.7 assists per game.

'It's not a one-on-one game, but it's going to be a great matchup,' Taylorsaid. 'Their whole team is going to give us a great challenge, especiallyafter embarrassing us last season. We're going to play our hearts out becausewe really need a big win and we really don't want our winning streak at home toend.'

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