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11:00 AM PT12:00 PM MT1:00 PM CT2:00 PM ET7:00 PM GMT3:00 PM 北京时间12:00 PM MST2:00 PM EST, Dec 29, 2018
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No. 8 Michigan State faces Northern Illinois in non-conference finale

Michigan State has one piece of unfinished business to address before plunging back into the Big Ten basketball season.

The No. 8 Spartans host Northern Illinois on Saturday afternoon to complete the non-conference portion of their schedule. They carry a five-game winning streak into the game but haven't played since Dec. 21, when they crushed in-state foe Oakland University 99-69.

Michigan State shot 58.5 percent from the field that night, improving its season percentage to an impressive 50.1.

"We have 27 assists on 38 baskets, you know you're really sharing the ball; the ball was moving," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "I don't have many complaints offensively."

The Spartans were disappointed that they allowed the Golden Grizzlies to shoot 56.5 percent from long range (13 of 23).

Izzo used 16 players that night, which contributed to the defensive lapses.

"We played a lot of people," he said. "I wanted to give guys a chance, a little Christmas present. I got (bench) guys in a few more minutes and I don't expect that to happen much looking at the Big Ten this year."

Michigan State's powerful offense has allowed it to post nine double-digit victories. Point guard Cassius Winston, who scored a season-high 26 points against Oakland, believes the team needs to tighten its defense to win the regular-season conference title.

"When we play at a high level, we're a really really good team," he said. "Sometimes we just have lapses and then we have to make a run to blow it open and things like that. If we play at a steady consistent pace and then have those runs, then we are going to be a way better team."

Winston is averaging a team-high 16.9 points and 7.5 assists. Center Nick Ward is close behind at 16.5 points and 6.3 rebounds, and shooting guard Joshua Langford is scoring at a 16.0 clip.

Reserve big man Xavier Tillman is averaging 10.7 points and 8.8 rebounds off the bench in the last six games.

Northern Illinois (7-5) is led by guard Eugene German, who is averaging 21.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Forward Levi Bradley is its second-leading scorer (16.4 ppg) and leading rebounder (7.0 rpg).

The Huskies have been stuck on a win-one, lose-one carousel this season. They have strung together two wins just once but haven't lost two in a row.

In their last game on Saturday, they blew out Chicago State 100-59 while shooting 55.7 percent from the field. They lost their previous game at Northern Kentucky, 65-62.

"It was a bounce-back game," Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery said. "We had a tough one at NKU, but our guys responded, it was a business-type approach. It is good to see our guys are still shooting the ball extremely well.

"Our defense has made improvements, we rebounded, we did a lot of things well."

Montgomery will be facing his alma mater. He played for the Spartans form 1988 to 1992 and coached under Izzo from 2001 tol 2012. The Spartans made 10 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and three Final Four appearances while Montgomery was an assistant.

Updated December 28, 2018

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