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No. 2 Spartans 1 year wiser, ready for No. 1 Blue Devils

November 14, 2017 - 12:05am

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The last time Michigan State sat as the nation’s second-ranked team and went up against No. 1, the Spartans beat Kentucky in the 2013 Champions Classic.

The last time Tom Izzo’s Spartans faced Mike Krzyzewski, a year ago at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke forced a young MSU team into a bevy of turnovers that turned into a game-changing barrage.

Consistency of a pillar of Izzo’s program. The next step, the Hall of Fame coach said Wednesday, is to beat top teams more regularly.

Like Duke.

“I think that’s just another step in the millions of things I have yet to accomplish, that we have to accomplish here, is figuring out how to win, knowing how to win and then translating that into game after game after game,” Izzo said Monday. “And let’s face it, (the Blue Devils) have done a better job of it than we have.”

The Spartans (1-0) have national championship aspirations and get a chance to prove themselves on a national stage Tuesday in one of the most anticipated games of the college basketball regular season. They face Duke at 7 p.m. in the Champions Classic at United Center in Chicago.

It’s just the 42nd time the top two teams in the country have played each other, according to collegepollarchive.com. MSU is 1-1 in those matchups, beating Kentucky four years ago and losing to Duke in the 1999 Final Four.

“Our mindset is of course to win,” sophomore forward Miles Bridges said Friday after the Spartans opened with a 98-66 win over North Florida. “We want to do anything in our power to prepare for Duke.”

Izzo, who is 1-10 against Kryzyzewski in his career, has tried to pattern his MSU program after the Duke program Krzyzewski built at Duke over the past 38 years.

“I think his place in college basketball is well-chronicled. And I’m glad,” Izzo said. “I hope he keeps winning other than (Tuesday) night, because I think for me it just gives me more motivation on what the best have done just on things I’d like to accomplish here before I’m done.”

Krzyzewski on Saturday told reporters after winning his 1,000th game at Duke, a 99-69 win over Elon, the Champions Classic meeting with MSU is “a big-time game for us.”

“They’re old and new,” Krzyzewski said of MSU. “They had good old, really good old, and good new. And the guy coaching them, he’s older — not as old as me, but he’s pretty good.

“It’ll be a hell of a night.”

A year ago, a young and injury-limited MSU squad stuck with the Blue Devils until the 6-minute mark of the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke then went on an 11-0 run that took a little more than 2 minutes, and it forced 10 turnovers that led to 15 points. The Blue Devils pulled away for a 78-69 victory.

“This isn’t about trying to play well, this is about trying to win games,” Izzo said Monday. “And I do think we grew up a lot in that game (last year), considering the travel and what we went through last year. We went down and competed very well for probably 35 minutes of that game. That’s what Duke’s pretty good at.”

Against Kentucky in last year’s Champions Classic, the Spartans wilted under the spotlight of Madison Square Garden and got blown out by the Wildcats, 69-48. MSU is 3-3 in the event, which also includes the Kentucky vs. Kansas in the late game.

“That experience last year (against Kentucky) humbled everybody,” Izzo said. “It was a good experience — one of the few times, maybe the only time in this seven games that we were blown out. … It was a blowout game because I don’t think we were ready for that stage. It was one of the few times that I can say that.

“I think we’re ready for the stage (against Duke), but we gotta play a team that’s awfully talented and well-coached.”

Trump asks Chinese counterpart for help with UCLA players

President Trump has personally intervened on behalf of the three UCLA basketball players ensnared in an international shoplifting scandal, asking his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, to help settle the case, a top White House spokesman said Monday.

Trump spoke with Xi during a visit to Beijing last week that came shortly after the three Bruins freshmen had been questioned in connection with the theft of designer sunglasses from a high-end shopping mall next to the hotel in Hangzhou, China, where the UCLA team was staying in advance of the Pac-12 China game against Georgia Tech.

The fact that Trump raised the arrests with Xi was first reported by the Washington Post.

LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill have remained at that hotel awaiting resolution of their case while their Bruins teammates returned to Los Angeles after defeating the Yellow Jackets, 63-60, in Shanghai.

ESPN has reported, citing anonymous sources, that authorities have surveillance footage of thefts from three stores inside the mall adjacent to the team hotel in Hangzhou.

Xi assured Trump that he would look into the matter and that the players would be treated fairly, a U.S. official told the Post. The newspaper also reported that Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has been in touch with the families of the players and spoken with UCLA coach Steve Alford. The U.S. official who spoke with the Post also indicated that charges against the players have been reduced and that the case is proceeding toward a resolution.

It remained unclear if, or when, the players would be allowed to return to the United States. UCLA will play its home opener against Central Arkansas on Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.

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