Preview: MSU hoops gets rare rest day ahead of road game at Penn State
Who: Michigan State (14-2, 5-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (7-8, 0-4).
When: 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 13.
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pennsylvania.
Radio: Spartan Sports Network; 94.9 WMMQ-FM (Lansing).
There aren't many days of rest in college basketball's regular season.
But after No. 6 MSU's 77-59 win over Purdue at the Breslin Center on Tuesday, coach Tom Izzo noticed a general fatigue from players. The Spartans took their mandatory rest day on Wednesday, as allowed by the NCAA and Izzo opted to give his players additional rest by using Thursday to study film and walk through Sunday's game plan.
Point guard Cassius Winston said Thursday how the rarity of back-to-back off days can help a team recuperate.
"It’s almost a shock," Winston, MSU's leading scorer at 18.0 points a game, said. "But credit to (Izzo), just working with us and trying to do what’s best for us and what’s best for the team."
Winston is one of a handful of players — including Kyle Ahrens, Matt McQuaid, Aaron Henry and Gabe Brown — to have seen an increase in minutes in the absence of starting shooting guard Joshua Langford, who remains out with a left ankle injury.
Izzo said Langford will miss Sunday's game, but could be reevaluated as soon as Monday.
Also per Izzo, Ahrens is day-to-day with a "minor" back sprain and his status for Sunday is unclear.
"When we can get it, we need to take advantage of it and really rest, get off our feet and take care of our bodies," forward Xavier Tillman said.
Four of MSU's next five are on the road and, including another road game — at Nebraska (11-4, 1-3) next Thursday — before returning to the Breslin Center on Jan. 21.
Despite the road stretch coming in the foreseeable future, Izzo said the most important task at hand is focusing on the Nittany Lions. Forward Lamar Stevens (6 feet 8 inches, 230 lbs.) is the team's leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 18.9 points and 8.1 boards, respectively.
Izzo also respected the challenge in playing on the road, even with a struggling team. The Nittany Lions defeated now-No. 9 Virginia Tech (13-1) its only loss with a 63-52 win in late November at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Sunday also marks the return of PSU coach Pat Chambers, who was suspended one game after pushing Myles Dread late in a 68-55 loss at undefeated Michigan on Jan. 3.
The Nittany Lions have lost two in a row and three of the last four.
"What Penn State brings is an opportunity to see if we can go against a team that doesn’t have as good a record and yet are well coached," Izzo said.
Harrison: No. 6 MSU 76, Penn State 67
Michaelson: MSU 83, Penn State 72