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Arizona Faces A Spartan Test At Michigan State
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 12/14/2001
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 14, 2001

By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer

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

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

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

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

If the Spartans win, they would tie the Big Ten's longest home winning streak with Ohio State (1959-63) and Indiana (1991-95). The Spartans would still have a long way to go to match Kentucky's record streak of 129 consecutive 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 and our fans."

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

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

Arizona coach Lute Olson said the teams are in similar situations with the loss 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 also gone.

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

So far, Arizona has been able to do a better job of making up for the losses. It began the season unranked but is now sixth thanks to wins over Maryland, 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 the poll, which would end a streak of being ranked at 67 weeks.

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

Olson said Michigan State's home streak gives the Wildcats an "interesting challenge."

Arizona's Gardner most likely will face Marcus Taylor in what may be the deciding factor. Taylor is averaging 14.4 points and 6.1 assists. Gardner, who chose to return for his junior season after initially declaring himself eligible for the draft, is averaging 24.2 points, more than four 3-pointers and 4.7 assists per game.

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

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