Arkansas-Pine Bluff has been busy on the basketball trail getting its usual steady diet of playing big-name competition.
A common denominator in almost all of their losses has been huge runs close to halftime or early in the second half that the Golden Lions have struggled to rebound from. And only once has UAPB played a ranked team this season.
Tonight, make that twice. The Lions (1-6) will play at Michigan State (6-2), ranked 17th in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
UAPB will have some help tonight with the retturn of junior center Daniel Broughton to the lineup. Broughton, an All-SWAC performer last season, will see limited action in his first game of the season after sitting out to recover and recondition himself from surgery on his injured knee, coach George Ivory said Tuesday night.
The Lions, who have lost four straight, hope to have their best showing of the season against a team from a Power-Six Conference (Michigan State plays in the Big Ten). Their average margin of defeat this season is 19.8 points, and only once have they dropped a game by fewer than 10 points (72-68 to Houston Baptist on Nov. 9).
Despite their 80-59 loss at Oregon on Saturday, the Lions made a few improvements offensively. They shot a season-high 45.1 percent from the floor and knocked down 63.2 percent of their free throws, while senior swingman Mitchell Anderson broke out of a scoring slump and led the team with 16 points.
But UAPB has been hampered by the losses of two post players. Senior Terrell Kennedy is expected miss his third straight game with a foot injury.
Michigan State is going for its 69th straight home win over an unranked non-conference opponent and 67th win in the last 68 home games overall. The Spartans are coming off an 84-39 victory over Nicholls State on Saturday.
Junior guard Keith Appling leads the Spartans with a 16.1-point per game average. He has hit 42.9 percent of his three-point baskets, an improvement from 25.0 percent last year.
Michigan State poses a serious threat inside to UAPB, as the Spartans outscore their opponents in the paint by an average of 14 points per game. However, the Spartans are saddled with 14.9 turnovers an outing.
Tonight’s game marks the return to the state of Michigan for junior forward Davon Haynes and sophomore guard Jaylon Floyd, both of whom played their high school ball in Detroit.
UAPB (1-6) at Michigan State (6-2)
• When: 7 p.m. Central today
• Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich.
• TV: Big Ten Network
• Rankings: Michigan State No. 17 in coaches’ poll
• Series: First meeting