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Michigan State, UConn make college basketball history in Europe

November 09, 2012|By Dan Loumena
  • Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo talks to Travis Trice during a preseason game last week.
Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo talks to Travis Trice during a preseason game… (Al Goldis / Associated Press )

College basketball gets its first big matchup of the season Friday evening when national powers Connecticut and Michigan State play at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

It's the first regular-season game to be played by college teams in Europe and appropriately leads into the Veterans Day weekend at one of the most important military installations the U.S. has overseas. Ramstein, which is home to the U.S. Air Force's 86th Air Wing, also serves as a NATO command center.

The No. 14-ranked Spartans and unranked Huskies will play in a converted hangar before 3,000 troops. The teams have split four meetings in the past, with the regular-season winners twice going on to capture NCAA titles -- UConn in 1999 and MSU in 2000.

"It seems like this game always means something," said Derrick Nix, a senior center for Michigan State.

The schools met in the Final Four in 2009, when the Spartans advanced to the championship game and lost to North Carolina. Most recently they met in 2010 at the Maui Invitational, where the Huskies evened the series to begin a season in which they won their most recent national championship.

"We have a chance to put together a pretty good team," Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said.

UConn has a new coach in alumnus and former NBA player Kevin Ollie, who believes the Huskies will be competitive if they work hard.

"We try to play defense all the time; we try to make our free throws and we try to pressure the ball, and we've got to rebound," he said. "We do those four things right and we'll win our share, I believe."

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