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Posts Tagged ‘Adreian Payne’

2014-15 Michigan basketball projections

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014


This year’s Michigan basketball team finished just shy of a second straight Final Four, but they still turned many heads along the way. People were incredulous that such a young group of players could play so well after losing two non-senior guards to the first round of the NBA Draft — including the previous season’s Player of the Year — and a preseason All-America big man to a season-ending injury, and that always seemed to be one of the first things brought up in every Michigan broadcast.

You might want to get used to that talk.

The NBA’s April 27 deadline for early entries into the draft has come and gone, but unfortunately for Michigan fans, it was certainly not without lots of action in Ann Arbor.

With the big three heading to the NBA Michigan will once again have a very young team next season (Detroit Free Press)

With the big three heading to the NBA Michigan will once again have a very young team next season (Detroit Free Press)

On April 15, just a couple weeks after the Wolverines’ heartbreaking loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight, sophomores Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III announced together that they would forego their final two years of college eligibility to enter the draft. Both were widely expected to leave — Stauskas after a breakout campaign that saw him take home Big Ten Player of the Year honors and Robinson III after he had passed on a likely top-15 selection a year before — but the departures will nonetheless make “what if” a common musing once again come basketball season.

A week and a half later, fellow sophomore Mitch McGary also declared for the draft – but without a press conference and just two days before the deadline. McGary, who didn’t play a game for Michigan  since the new year, announced that he would leave college after testing positive for marijuana during the NCAA Tournament, which would have resulted in a one-year suspension levied by the NCAA.

Many had speculated that McGary was going back and forth on his NBA decision until the bitter end, but his confession of the failed test and the NCAA’s denial of Michigan’s appeal brought light to the situation, and a source has confirmed that McGary would have returned to Michigan next season if he was not facing a suspension.

Regardless, all three have commenced their professional careers, leaving Michigan to regroup yet again.

So what does that mean for the Wolverines?

Well, for one, coach John Beilein and his staff are developing players at an incredible rate. Stauskas will be a first-rounder, and at least one of Robinson III and McGary will likely be there as well. If we can assume that, Michigan will have had four — maybe five — first round selections in two years.

Now, the philosophy of next man up must continue.

Most probably didn’t think this would be possible, but next season Michigan will be younger and less experienced than ever before in the Beilein era. Caris LeVert, Spike Albrecht, and Max Bielfeldt are the only three players that have been in the program for two full seasons, and with the recent commitments of Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Michigan will have a whopping seven players with freshman eligibility. Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Jr., and a few walk-ons round out the roster with one year under their belts.

After butchering last season’s individual player predictions (but hey, I got the Big Ten record and the Elite Eight finish spot on), I think the time is ripe to look foolish again. So with that in mind, let’s take a wild guess at how the lineups will shape up, who will handle the scoring load, and how many games Michigan can pull out.

Mark Donnal has a huge task ahead of him in locking down Michigan's front court (Courtney Sacco, Ann Arbor News)

Mark Donnal has a huge task ahead of him in locking down Michigan’s front court (Courtney Sacco, Ann Arbor News)

The Bigs

Perhaps the biggest what if of next year would have been the “what if Michigan still had Mitch McGary, a potential big man All-American, along with a dynamic backcourt headlined by Caris LeVert, who is already garnering some All-American talk?” The same question could be asked of graduating senior Jordan Morgan and rising senior Jon Horford, who has transferred to Florida.

As my dad always says, though, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

McGary is gone and Michigan’s only center candidate with any college game experience is Max Bielfeldt. Let that sink in a little.

The two freshmen vying for playing time will be Mark Donnal, who turned some heads in practice while redshirting last season, and Ricky Doyle, a true freshman from Florida whose high school competition was somewhat questionable.

Donnal seems to be the clear front-runner to start, and I am a huge fan of his game based off one live viewing of him in high school. Donnal possesses excellent range for a big man, which could make for a devastating combination in Beilein’s jack-happy offense, has solid length that should make him a serviceable rebounder and shot-blocker, and seems to be able to score from anywhere on the floor. Without raising too many eyebrows, I have to say that Donnal’s offensive game most closely reminds me of Doug McDermott and Adreian Payne as a junior and senior; obviously he will not score as much as McDermott did right off the bat, but Donnal’s versatility makes him a real threat.

Doyle would have been an excellent redshirt candidate this season but will likely be forced into some action with the limited depth. He is more of a back-to-the-basket type with a developing shot.

Bielfeldt has played spot minutes before and clearly has the upper hand when it comes to experience, but I don’t see great potential. He is a little short on size, talent, and athleticism; his range could score him a few minutes again, but I expect Donnal to get the lion’s share.

Minute Breakdown:
Donnal: 25 Doyle: 10 Bielfeldt: 5

The Wings

Caris LeVert is the de facto leader for Michigan next season (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

Caris LeVert is the de facto leader for Michigan next season (Andy Lyons, Getty Images)

At the wing spots for Michigan, you will again find – surprise! – more youth.

Caris LeVert is obviously the one that everyone is talking about as the next potential NBA early entry after a breakout sophomore season, and as a junior this coming year, is a shoo-in to be a captain and a starter. He’s also likely to be the guy, at least to start the season, who would be Beilein’s choice to take it on the last possession. If LeVert sticks around Ann Arbor this summer to work on his game and packs on a few more pounds to his lanky frame, the All-America talk will not fade any time soon.

Zak Irvin will be the only other wing with experience, and after a year of some excellent spot-up shooting for a true freshman, he will be asked to develop into more than just a shooter in the upcoming offseason. The former Indiana Mr. Basketball has shown in the past that he can be a great scorer, and his length makes him a strong candidate to emerge as one of Michigan’s best on-ball defenders. He flashed some encouraging signs late in the season. If Irvin sticks around for Camp Sanderson, expect many headlines on a potential breakout for him as well.

LeVert and Irvin should both see 30-plus minutes per game at some combination of the two and three spots in the offense, and Irvin could slide to the four on occasion as well. If Irvin sticks mostly to the three, however, it will be two true freshmen, just like at the five, earning the vast majority of playing time at the four spot.

Those two freshmen are Kameron Chatman of Oregon and D.J. Wilson of California. Chatman measures in around 6’7″ and comes in as the highest-rated recruit of the class, while Wilson is listed around 6’8″ and recently jumped up in the ranks after a solid senior year. Both players have range out to the three-point line and length to spare. Chatman seems to be a little more perimeter- and offensive-oriented at this point, but Wilson looks to have better bounce and shot-blocking skills. I would expect both to earn a good chunk of playing time right off the bat in what will be one of the more interesting competitions to watch.

Rounding out the wing depth are the two late signees in Abdur-Rahkman and Dawkins. I admittedly have to watch much more video on each before formulating any sort of scouting report, but they both are garnering the “Trust in Beilein” philosophy for now. After seeing unheralded late signees like Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert pan out pretty well so far, that seems to be a fair approach. Both come in in the 6’4″-to-6’5″ range with solid athleticism and were on track to be mid-majors until Beilein came calling. Abdur-Rahkman is generally viewed as more of a slasher who needs to work on his shot while Dawkins has been called more of a shooter who needs to work on his handles. With hard work, both will certainly be given the chance to develop into rotation players, but they will likely play sparingly next year.

Minute Breakdown:
4 Wilson: 20 Chatman: 15 Irvin: 5
3 Irvin: 25 Chatman: 5 LeVert: 5 MAAR/
: 5
2 LeVert: 30 MAAR/
: 5
Albrecht: 5

The Point Guards

At perhaps John Beilein’s most critical position, Michigan will luckily have two players with a combined three years of college experience. Though Spike Albrecht will only be a junior and Derrick Walton, Jr. a sophomore, they will be the gray beards directing traffic.

Albrecht is a steadying force and a pretty decent bet to be the only player from the 2012 recruiting class to finish out his college eligibility. He is the known commodity – a plus passer, a plus ball handler, and a plus shooter with middling size and athleticism.

Walton is a prime candidate to break out, and if previous sophomore seasons from Darius Morris and Trey Burke are any indication, too big of a breakout from Walton could have Michigan fans shaking in their boots again. The quiet floor general has plenty of quickness, a shot that continues to improve, and a strong ability to finish at the rack after struggling with that early last season. He has also shown poise with some excellent late-game free throw shooting, which is always a great attribute for a point guard. One of the bigger areas Walton can improve on this offseason will be on the defensive end, where he could develop into a nice thief.

Minute Breakdown:
Walton, Jr.: 30 Albrecht: 10

Starting Lineup and Team Predictions

Starting Lineup:
1 2 3 4 5
Walton, Jr. LeVert Irvin Chatman Donnal
Team predictions:
MVP Caris LeVert
Most Improved Player Zak Irvin
Freshman of the Year Mark Donnal
Newcomer of the Year D.J. Wilson
Top 3 Scorers (in order) LeVert, Walton, Irvin
Players Shooting 40%+ from 3 (in order) LeVert, Irvin, Walton, Wilson, Albrecht
Projected Record 25-11 (11-7)
Projected Finish Sweet Sixteen
Bold Prediction D.J. Wilson earns Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors

What do you think? Do you agree with these projections? If not, what changes would you make?

Third time’s the harm: Michigan State 69 – Michigan 55

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

MSU BTT win 3-16-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

With the Big Ten regular season title under its belt and a possible one-seed in the NCAA Tournament, Michigan faced off with Michigan State for the Big Ten Tournament title on Sunday afternoon. But instead of running the table and pulling off a three-game sweep of the Spartans, Michigan was outplayed and handed a 69-55 defeat.

Nik Stauskas started the game just as he left off the previous two meetings. His first shot of the game was good for three, and after a pair of Adreian Payne free throws, Derrick Walton Jr added a three to give Michigan an early 6-2 lead. The Wolverines widened it to 9-4 before Michigan State scored 12 straight to take a 16-9 lead.

After a Michigan time out, Stauskas hit another three to stop the run, but Michigan State kept the foot on the pedal. The Spartans’ game plan was clear from the start: get the ball inside and take it to Michigan’s big men. It worked as Jordan Morgan and Jon Hoford both picked up several fouls in the first few minutes, forcing John Beilein to turn to Max Bielfeldt for major minutes.

Keith Appling made a layup to put Michigan State ahead 23-14 and Beilein received a technical foul — his second in the last four games. Travis Trice made both free throws, but Stauskas responded with a four-point play to negate the whole sequence. Michigan State took a 38-29 lead into the locker room.

The second half started out as badly as possible for Michigan as Michigan State scored eight straight and Michigan missed its first six shots. Suddenly, a nine-point halftime deficit was 17 just three minutes into the half. Morgan ended the Spartan run, but Dawson answered with a jumper of his own. Michigan was never able to get closer than ten the rest of the way and Michigan State captured its fourth ever Big Ten Tournament crown.

For the game, Michigan shot just 31.5 percent and 26.1 percent from three-point range. Michigan State, meanwhile, shot 50 percent from the field despite making just 2-of-17 from downtown. Michigan had no answer for the Spartans’ inside game without Morgan and Horford for most of the game.

Stauskas led Michigan with 17 points on just 4-of-14 shooting. He hit 3-of-5 three-pointers, but often struggled to find an open shot, especially in the second half. Walton was the only other Michigan player in double figures with 11 points, while Caris LeVert scored just seven on 2-of-10 shooting and Glenn Robinson III just six on 2-of-8 shooting.

Three Stars

***Adreian Payne***
18 points (6-of-13 FG, 1-of-4 3PT, 5-of-5 FT), nine rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, two turnovers in 29 minutes

**Branden Dawson**
15 points (7-of-8 FG, 1-of-1 FT), six rebounds (one offensive), one assist, one block, in 24 minutes

*Gary Harris*
15 points (7-of-13 FG, 1-of-5 3PT), two rebounds, two assists, three steals, one turnover in 30 minutes

Quick Hitters:


Final Game Stats
01 Glenn Robinson III* 2-8 0-3 2-2 1 2 3 2 6 0 0 0 1 31
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 3-6 1-4 4-5 1 3 4 3 11 1 0 1 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 4-14 3-5 6-6 1 1 2 1 17 1 3 0 0 39
52 Jordan Morgan* 4-6 0-0 0-0 4 2 6 4 8 0 2 0 0 20
23 Caris LeVert* 2-10 0-4 2-3 0 1 1 0 7 4 3 0 1 34
02 Spike Albrecht 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 11
05 Andrew Dakich 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
15 Jon Horford 0-2 0-0 0-0 1 1 2 4 0 0 1 1 0 5
20 Sean Lonergan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
21 Zak Irvin 2-5 2-5 0-0 0 1 1 0 6 0 0 0 0 15
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-2 0-2 0-0 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 13
Totals 17-54 6-23 15-16 13 15 28 15 55 7 9 3 3 200
Michigan State 27-54 2-17 13-15 14 24 38 19 69 14 10 6 7 200
Full Stats

Justin’s 3 thoughts: Michigan State

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Michigan-Michigan State header_BTT

Michigan staved off an Ohio State comeback on Saturday afternoon to beat the Buckeyes for the first time in seven tries in Big Ten Tournament play and advance to its first championship game since 1998. Michigan State, meanwhile, held off Wisconsin to reach its fourth championship game and first since winning it in 2012. Thus, it set up a third meeting between the two intrastate rivals, but just the first ever meeting in Big Ten Tournament play.

In the Jan. 25 meeting in East Lansing, Michigan State was without the services of both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson and Michigan capitalized with a 80-75 victory. In the return meeting on Feb. 23, the Spartans had Payne back but were still without Dawson and Michigan once again pulled out the win, 79-70. This time around, with the championship on the line, Tom Izzo’s squad is healthy and out of excuses.

Can Michigan beat MSU for the third time in less than two weeks and become the seventh Big Ten team to win both the outright regular season title and the tournament championship in the same season? Or will the Spartans exact revenge for the first two matchups and steal the tournament trophy? Here are my three keys to the game:

Branden Dawson is eager to face Michigan for the first time this season and try to shut down Stauskas (Michael Conroy, AP)

Branden Dawson is eager to face Michigan for the first time this season and try to shut down Stauskas (Michael Conroy, AP)

Get off to a hot start

Michigan State is sure acting confident in the lead up to this winner-take-all battle. Izzo likened it to ‘Fourth of July on Christmas,’ whatever that means, and Gary Harris reportedly texted Zak Irvin earlier in the week, saying ‘see you on Sunday.’ The reality is they’ve lost six of the last eight meetings, so the pressure is on them.

Michigan was able to survive a big Spartan lead at the beginning of the game in Ann Arbor and come back to win, but a big Michigan State lead on Sunday will only give them more confidence. Conversely, if Michigan is able to jump out to a big lead early on it will cause the Spartans to force their play and doubts will start creeping in.

The game won’t be won or lost in the first ten minutes, but — aside from Saturday’s hot start — Michigan has had a propensity for slow starts over the last month. They can’t afford to do so on Sunday and give Michigan State the confidence it needs to take control of the game.

Make sure Stauskas gets his shots

In the first two meetings Stauskas scored a combined 44 points on 16-of-25 shooting and 8-of-11 three-point shooting. With Dawson out, Stauskas was able to get off good looks over the smaller Keith Appling. But now the 6’6″ Dawson is back and has the ability to guard Stauskas on the perimeter or make it tough for him to get open looks.

This adds a new dynamic for Michigan than the first two meetings, so expect John Beilein to have something ready to free up Stauskas or use the Canadian sharpshooter as a decoy to get open looks for others. No, Beilein doesn’t have a week to prepare for this one, but he’s shown time and again that he’s able to design effective offensive schemes.

In the first meeting Michigan State was guarding the perimeter hard and coming over the top of ball screens. In the second meeting, Beilein had the offense look for back cuts and was able to get some easy buckets. Expect something similar on Sunday.

Make free throws

It sounds like a lame key to the game, but this one is going to come down to the wire and every point will be crucial. Michigan was the Big Ten’s best free throw shooting team all season, making 76.3 percent. In the first two meetings, Michigan went a combined 42-of-55 — an identical 76.3 percent.

In Saturday’s win over Ohio State, however, Michigan wasn’t able to capitalize on its trips to the charity stripe, making just 10-of-19. Fortunately, it didn’t cost them the game, but rest assured if there’s a repeat performance on Sunday Michigan won’t win.

Prediction: Michigan 73 – Michigan State 71

Big Ten power rankings: Week 9

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

This week’s edition of the Big Ten power rankings features more movement than usual as the conference continues to deal surprise after surprise. With March upon us, teams that play well down the stretch often outperform teams with more impressive overall resumes in postseason tournaments.

While teams like Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa will certainly make the field of 68, playing poorly in late February and early March can really take the steam out of a potential deep run in the Big Dance. Meanwhile, teams that streak into the tournament on the final days of the season (Nebraska? Indiana?) represent extremely dangerous matchups.

So here’s how the Big Ten teams are playing with less than a week remaining before they head to Indianapolis.

1. Michigan (21-7, 13-3)  Even
Last week: Feb. 26 W at Purdue 77-76 OT, Mar. 1 W vs Minnesota 66-56
This week: Tuesday at Illinois 7pm ESPN, Saturday vs Indiana 6pm 

The in-state rival Spartans lost just before tip-off in Ann Arbor on Saturday, and after Michigan took care of Minnesota, it officially clinched at least a share of the regular season Big Ten championship. John Beilein’s surprise team can seal the title alone with a win at Illinois tonight or against Indiana on Saturday. 

2. Wisconsin (24-5, 11-5) • Even
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs Indiana 69-58, Mar. 2 W at Penn State 71-66
This week: Wednesday vs Purdue 9pm BTN, Sunday at Nebraska 7:30pm 

History shows that no matter what happens early in the season, a hot team is dangerous in March. The Badgers are red-hot heading into the final week of conference play, riding a seven-game winning streak and tied with Michigan State for second place in the Big Ten. Wisconsin could represent the most dangerous team in the conference, but clinching a share of the title gave Michigan the nod at No. 1 for now. 

3. Nebraska (17-11, 9-7) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 26 L at Illinois 49-60, Mar. 1 W vs Northwestern 54-47
This week: Wednesday at Indiana 7pm BTN, Sunday vs #9 Wisconsin 7:30pm

Despite last week’s loss to Illinois, which looks slightly less egregious after the Illini won in East Lansing on Saturday, Nebraska finds itself contending for a first-round bye in Indianapolis. Tim Miles’s team held off Northwestern on Saturday and can secure a winning conference record with a win in either of its final two games (at Indiana on Wednesday or against Wisconsin on Sunday).

4. Indiana (17-12, 7-9) • Up 4
Last week: Feb. 25 L at #14 Wisc. 58-69, Feb. 27 W vs #20 Iowa 93-86, Mar. 2 W vs #22 OSU 72-64
This week: Wednesday vs Nebraska 7pm BTN, Saturday at #12 Michigan 6pm

Don’t look now, but Indiana is making the run that Big Ten fans were waiting for. Indiana knocked off two straight top-25 teams last week to keep its dim tournament hopes alive. They may not recover from the 3-7 stretch that plagued the heart of their conference schedule, but the Hoosiers aren’t going down without a fight. It may take a win in Ann Arbor in the season finale to put Indiana over the hump.

5. Iowa (17-12, 6-10) • Up 3
Last week: Feb. 26 W vs Nebraska 60-49, Mar. 1 W at #18 Michigan State 53-46
This week: Tuesday vs #12 Michigan 7pm ESPN, Saturday at #24 Iowa 8:30pm

John Groce waited nearly two whole months of Big Ten play for his team to show some life, and although it’s likely too late to join an already-crowded NCAA Tournament bubble, Illinois played spoiler three times in the past two weeks. A win over Michigan State in East Lansing proved the most impressive feat for Illinois on the season, but beating Minnesota and Nebraska the week before was more nationally significant, as both teams have tournament hopes that hang by a thread.

6. Iowa (20-9, 9-7) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 25 L at Minnesota 89-95, Feb. 27 L at Indiana 86-93, Mar. 2 W vs Purdue 83-76
This week: Thursday at #22 Michigan State 9pm ESPN, Saturday vs Illinois 8:30pm

When both Michigan and Michigan State faltered on their home courts on Feb. 16, Iowa climbed to within one game of the conference co-leaders in the loss column. The Hawkeyes responded by losing their next three games and falling completely out of contention. After struggling to beat Purdue at home, Iowa looks to take advantage of an equally-wounded Spartan squad on Thursday.

7. Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) • Down 3
Last week: Mar. 1 L vs Illinois 46-53
This week: Thursday vs #24 Iowa 9pm ESPN, Sunday at Ohio State 4:30pm

All season long Tom Izzo stuck to the same story: when Michigan State returned all of its injured players, the miraculous turnaround would begin. Well on Saturday Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all played against Illinois and the Spartans lost on their home court, and scored just 46 points in the process. The time to start worrying about Michigan State has arrived, as it has dropped six of its last 10 games, with half of those coming at home.

8. Ohio State (22-8, 9-8) • Down 5
Last week: Feb. 27 L at Penn State 63-65, Mar. 2 L at Indiana 64-72
This week: Sunday vs #22 Michigan State 4:30pm CBS

The last time Ohio State lost to Penn State, it responded by winning six of its next seven games. This time, the Buckeyes followed up with a loss to Indiana. Unfortunately for Thad Matta’s squad, the most glaring part of the statement is that the Buckeyes have lost to the 5-11 Nittany Lions twice.

9. Minnesota (18-12, 7-10) • Down 3
Last week: Feb. 25 W vs #20 Iowa 95-89, Mar. 1 L at #16 Michigan 56-66
This week: Saturday vs Penn State 8:30pm

Minnesota nearly punched its NCAA Tournament ticket for good Saturday when a furious second-half charge brought it to within two points of first-place Michigan. The visible frustration on coach Richard Pitino’s face as the game slipped away perfectly sums up the remainder of his team’s season. Minnesota will sit and watch the rest of the bubble teams play during the week before hosting Penn State in a game that does little to strengthen its tournament resume. As Joe Lunardi’s “last team in,” this stressful week could turn Pitino’s hair a few shades closer to his father’s.

10. Penn State (14-15, 5-11) • Up 1
Last week: Feb. 27 W vs #22 Ohio State 65-63, Mar. 2 L vs #14 Wisconsin 66-71
This week: Thursday at Northwestern 7pm ESPNU, Saturday at Minnesota 8:30pm

Though Penn State is unlikely to win its final two road games and finish the season with an overall .500 record, it did complete a sweep of the preseason No. 11 Buckeyes on Thursday. After losing their first six conference games, the Nittany Lions can settle for morale victories.

11. Purdue (15-14, 5-11) • Down 1
Last week: Feb. 26 L vs #16 Michigan 76-77 OT, Mar. 2 L vs #20 Iowa 76-83
This week: Wednesday at #9 Wisconsin 9pm BTN, Sunday vs Northwestern 12pm

Purdue played both Michigan and Iowa to the end last week, but the end result was two losses, bringing the streak to a total of four. The Boilermakers’ last chance to play spoiler against a tournament team comes on Wednesday, when they travel to Madison to battle the streaking Badgers.

12. Northwestern (12-17, 5-11) • Even
Last week: Mar. 1 L at Nebraska 47-54
This week: Thursday vs Penn State 7pm ESPNU, Sunday at Purdue 12pm

Northwestern crashed and burned after a strong start to the conference season, currently riding a six-game losing streak. The Wildcats do have an opportunity to finish on a positive note as the final two regular-season games come against fellow last place Big Ten opponents.

Sweeping Sparty: Michigan 79 – Michigan State 70

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Stauskas dunk vs MSU 2-23-14(Scott Mapes, UMHoops)

In a basketball game being called one of the biggest ever in Ann Arbor, with all the marbles on the line and a clear road to the Big Ten championship at stake, Michigan and Michigan State put on a game for the ages. Back and forth they went, the Spartans jumping out to a quick double-digit lead in the first half, then the Wolverines battling back to make it a two-point halftime deficit and taking a lead themselves early in the second stanza.

All afternoon, it seemed that the game would come down to a last-second possession, but somewhere along the way, Michigan decided they wanted it more and Michigan State lost its steam.

Once the Maize and Blue clawed back from the small but tough deficits they were in to go up 50-49 with 11:18 left, Michigan State was certain to draw closer. And they did, with a Gary Harris three to re-gain the lead less than a minute later. Then Nik Stauskas answered with a three of his own, and we’d all seen the narrative before – Michigan gets over the hump, Michigan State fights back, game comes down to wire, one rival wins in heart-stopping fashion.

After all, three of the past five meetings between these bitter enemies had been decided by five points or fewer – and two by a single point.

Nik Stauskas dominated the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points (

Nik Stauskas dominated the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 25 points (

Today, however, the story would follow a different path. Once Stauskas drained that three, good for his 18th, 19th, and 20th points of the day, Michigan got a stop, then two free throws from LeVert, then another stop, and another three from Stauskas to go up by seven. Michigan State called a timeout, and rightfully so with the noise of the Crisler crowd. But after the timeout, it was LeVert’s turn to continue digging the Spartan grave with a three and a dunk off a turnover to give him 21 points on the day.

When the two sophomores finally took their feet off the pedal, Michigan had already amassed a 12-point lead on the backs of the 21-4 run put on entirely by LeVert and Stauskas, and the game was over.

Sure, the clock still had seven minutes and change left, but the Spartans simply weren’t coming back.

When the clock eventually did strike zero, the scoreboard read Michigan 79, Michigan State 70. The Wolverines were back again.

This time around, Michigan State couldn’t blame the loss on two absent stars. Adreian Payne, their best player, was back in full form, and while forward Branden Dawson had to sit out again, both teams were down a starter.

It’s certainly clear now that Michigan has adjusted much better to their adversity than their counterparts in East Lansing. There have been bumps in the road to be sure, but the Maize and Blue have played through the loss of Mitch McGary in mid-December like nothing ever happened.

Stauskas, the sophomore many are calling the best player in the Big Ten, broke out of a mini slump today with spectacular team highs of 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting (3-of-5 from deep) and five assists. LeVert, being billed as the Big Ten’s most improved, complemented his classmate’s game remarkably with 23 points (7-of-15 FG, 3-of-5 3PT) and three assists of his own. Together, the pair who played second fiddle to the likes of Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., and even McGary and Glenn Robinson III last season, emerged for all to see today with more than 60 percent of Michigan’s total offensive output.

LeVert, with 14 points in the first half, including a wide open, buzzer-beating, corner three that splashed net with LeVert already halfway down the court, kept Michigan alive. Stauskas, with 21 after the break, including shot after shot falling away with a hand in his face, put the nails in Michigan State’s coffin.

The pair also got a big boost from the quiet Glenn Robinson III, who finished with 15 points — 11 in the second half — on 12 shots despite missing all three of his threes and four of his seven free throws.

What stands out most about the win, however, is how Michigan completely abolished Tom Izzo’s defensive game plan and simply out-smarted the Spartans all game long. In the first half, when buckets were hard to come by, the Wolverines scored on a variety of back-cuts against an overly-aggressive defense. In the second half, Michigan drove the ball much better and started hitting their outside shots while stymying Michigan State’s attack with a 1-3-1 zone defense.

Michigan has won six of the last eight against the Spartans (

Michigan has won six of the last eight against the Spartans (

With a quick glance at the box score, it’s clear what the difference was: Michigan turned the ball over just three times while taking advantage of 13 Michigan State giveaways to outscore the Spartans 14-0 off of turnovers.

Postgame thoughts are often overly optimistic or pessimistic based on the very recent play of a given team, but today it seems obvious that this Michigan win will hold great weight for a long time.

With the victory, the Wolverines have complete control of their conference finish. Win the four winnable-looking games (at Purdue, home versus Minnesota,  at Illinois, home versus Indiana) left on the schedule, and the Big Ten title goes to Michigan – no splits, no shares, no ties.

The win also means that even if Michigan and Michigan State somehow play each other two more times this season – highly unlikely – and the Spartans win both (again, this is a hypothetical) no Wolverine will have a losing record against their in-state foes at the end of the season. That includes senior Jordan Morgan, who will in all likelihood finish his career with a 6-2 mark against Michigan State.

Michigan’s triumph also ensures a black mark on Michigan State seniors Keith Appling and Adreian Payne’s college careers – neither will ever be able to claim a victory over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.

Following the momentous win, John Beilein credited his team with playing a great game against a great opponent, but noted that his Wolverines will quickly move on after celebrating tonight, because, of course, they are now only “in position to be in position.”

But he didn’t leave the press room before making a statement that just about everyone already realized.

“Michigan is back in so many ways.”


Three Stars:

***Nik Stauskas***
25 points (9-of-13 FG, 3-of-5 3PT, 4-of-6 FT), three rebounds, five assists, two turnovers in 37 minutes

**Caris LeVert**
23 points (7-of-15 FG, 3-of-5 3PT, 6-of-8 FT), three rebounds, three assists, one steal in 39 minutes

*Gary Harris*
21 points (7-of-17 FG, 4-of-13 3PT, 3-of-3 FT), one rebound, four assists, one steal, three turnovers in 39 minutes

Quick Hitters:

 Crisler Center was perhaps as loud as it has ever been today with 3,000 students in the house and a crowd that had less green in this rivalry game than ever before. Jordan Morgan appreciated the boost, saying, “Our fans were great…we gotta give them a lot of credit. They made it a great atmosphere to play in, and I’m sure they made a huge difference in the outcome today.”

 For the fifth consecutive year, Michigan’s Maize Rage teamed up with the Dance Team to put on the show dubbed “Dance Rage.” While Dance Rage previously took place as the main halftime attraction, the entertainment has disappointingly been moved to a timeout in the second half for the past three seasons. Today’s halftime show instead was a no-name magician who received very little attention.

Final Game Stats
01 Glenn Robinson III* 6-12 0-3 3-7 2 3 5 1 15 1 0 0 0 38
10 Derrick Walton Jr.* 1-5 1-3 2-2 1 3 4 3 5 3 0 0 2 28
11 Nik Stauskas* 9-13 3-5 4-6 0 3 3 0 25 5 2 0 0 37
52 Jordan Morgan* 1-2 0-0 2-2 0 2 2 4 4 0 0 0 0 22
23 Caris LeVert* 7-15 3-5 6-8 0 3 3 2 23 3 0 0 1 39
02 Spike Albrecht 1-3 1-1 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 2 0 0 1 13
15 Jon Horford 1-1 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 5 2 1 0 0 0 16
21 Zak Irvin 1-3 0-2 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 17
Totals 27-54 8-19 17-25 7 17 24 18 79 15 3 0 5 200
Michigan State 26-48 9-23 9-15 7 24 31 23 70 13 13 2 1 200
Full Stats

Sam’s 3 thoughts: Michigan State

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Michigan-MSU header

There are a few games in every college basketball team’s season that are remembered years down the line. Oftentimes those aren’t the blowout wins or brutal losses that set off fan firestorms in their immediate aftermath, but rather the close, season-defining wins and losses over rivals – games that determine conference finishes or tournament outcomes.

For Michigan fans, games like the home Indiana loss of last year and the Evan Turner buzzer-beater in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament still sting, while the wins against Duke and UCLA in 2008 and the nail-biter triumph over Michigan State last season will live on in Wolverine lore forever.

Tomorrow’s showdown with the Spartans (12 p.m. on CBS) has all the makings of one of those matchups that will be remembered for years to come. Not only are the teams fierce rivals who are competing for the upper hand in the Big Ten title race this season. Michigan and Michigan State are also fighting for tournament seeding, rivalry respect on the level of Duke-North Carolina, and perhaps more than anything else, pure bragging rights.

The Wolverines, winners of five of the last seven against the Spartans, will look to sweep the season series while also battling to protect home court and to avenge their loss to Wisconsin just one week ago. Here’s what they will have to do to avoid back-to-back losses for just the third time in three years.

Contain Payne: In Michigan’s 80-75 victory at Michigan State almost exactly one month ago, Spartan senior star Adreian Payne was unable to play due to the plantar fasciitis he’s been dealing with nearly all year long. Tomorrow, that won’t be the case. After sitting out for seven straight games in January and early February, Payne has come back with a vengeance in the twilight of his college career without missing a beat.

Adreian Payne missed the first meeting but has averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in five games since (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

Adreian Payne missed the first meeting but has averaged 18 points and seven rebounds in five games since (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

In Michigan State’s last five game, of which the Spartans have won only three times, Payne has been dominant both inside and out, averaging 18 points and nearly seven boards while making 54.2 percent of his shots from the floor and 44.4 percent of his triples (8-of-18). What’s even more impressive is the fact that Payne has done all this damage while playing fewer than 27 minutes per game in that stretch.

For Michigan, team defense as a whole has been a concern lately, but their collapse inside against Wisconsin big man Frank Kaminsky was particularly eye-opening. Kaminsky, a seven-footer with range stretching beyond the three-point line, is very similar to Payne but with less athleticism, a little more height, and a much slower first step. He simply pounded Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford like pieces of meat to the tune of 25 points (11-of-16 FG, 1-of-2 3PT) and 11 rebounds a week ago.

Last year at Crisler, Payne was a terror himself, amassing 17 points (6-of-11 FG, 2-of-5 3PT) and 11 rebounds in Michigan’s one-point win.

The problem for the Wolverines, and for just about every team facing off with Payne and his Spartans for that matter, is essentially that there is no clear idea of who should defend the beast inside. Morgan gives up a lot of size to Payne and was exposed big time on the dribble-drive against Kaminsky, while Horford lacks the strength to consistently body up Payne in the paint and is not quick laterally either. Glenn Robinson III has the athleticism to compete with Payne, but he’s also shown a complete inability to defend any post-up attempt in the past and would stand no chance in a one-on-one matchup.

I think John Beilein will go with a strategy we’ve often seen in the past against dominant big men like Jared Sullinger and Payne himself by doubling down any time Payne touches the ball inside, rotating the defense, and hoping he can’t find the open man on the perimeter. On the outside, Morgan and Horford need to do their best to hedge screens and quickly get back to Payne or else simply hope that his shot isn’t on.

With no Branden Dawson to worry about again tomorrow, Michigan needs to focus all of their rebounding efforts on keeping Payne off the glass and preventing his rim-shaking put-backs.

Get Stauskas Going: Nik Stauskas, Michigan’s offensive superstar who was shooting up NBA draft boards after scoring double-digit points in 12 straight contests in December and January, has been disappearing far too often lately as teams continue to try to limit his touches. Rather than getting more active and running his man around screens every time down the court, however, Stauskas has largely been content to camp out in his corner starting spot while watching his teammates go to work. That strategy is going to need some re-thinking if the Maize and Blue are to pull out a win tomorrow.

Nik Stauskas has been held to just 11.2 points in his last four games (

Nik Stauskas has been held to just 11.2 points in his last four games, but scored 19 in the first meeting with MSU (

Since putting on a show with 19 points on some hot three-point shooting over Michigan State (5-of-6 from deep, 2-of-6 inside the arc), Michigan’s Canadian marksman has struggled mightily on offense while becoming more and more the focal point of opponents’ defensive plans, averaging just 11.2 points (versus 16.7 ppg on the season), 2.3 assists (3.5), and 3.2 turnovers (1.9) per game over the Wolverines’ past six games. In that same stretch of games, Stauskas has also shot the ball less (7.5 FGA versus 10 on the season and 3.2 3PTA vs. 5.2) and worse (46.2 percent on twos vs. 52.6 percent on the season and 31.6 percent on threes vs. 44 percent).

In Stauskas’s stead, Caris LeVert has had to pick up the slack and lead the team, but Michigan is just not the same offensive juggernaut without Stauskas. In fact, while Michigan has gone 2-2 over their last four games, Stauskas has been the team’s fourth leading scorer behind LeVert, Glenn Robinson III, and Zak Irvin. Tomorrow, Michigan needs to get Stauskas the ball in good spots early on to give him open shots from outside or a nice lane from which to drive and dish, score, or get fouled. If Stauskas reaches his season average of 16 and gets to the line 10 times tomorrow afternoon, I think Michigan wins.

Win the Fast Break: Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State has always been a team that likes to dictate tempo, and not surprisingly, Michigan does the same very well with John Beilein’s philosophies, but the teams play a little bit differently. The Spartans are generally more content to play a faster game and run off of makes or misses while Michigan generally likes to slow things down defensively and run only off turnovers and missed shots.

Recently, Michigan’s turnover woes have led to losing the fast break battle, and if the same happens tomorrow, Michigan State will quite literally run away with things. Two weekends ago against Iowa, Michigan allowed 17 fast-break points on 12 turnovers. Overall, the Wolverines have coughed it up at least nine times in nine straight games.

Look for Michigan to be particularly careful with the ball tomorrow and in getting back in transition against Spartan guards Keith Appling and Gary Harris and big men Payne and Matt Costello. The Wolverines can win making shots and letting Michigan State collect defensive rebounds off their misses, but they’ll be hard-pressed to pull out a victory with the Spartans effectively getting into the lane on the run.

Prediction: This Big Ten season has seen more road wins across the conference than any that I can remember, but Michigan has generally been an excellent home team under Beilein and has won three straight in Ann Arbor over their in-state foe. As previously mentioned, Michigan has lost back-to-back games only twice in the last three seasons (including this one), but has not lost back-to-back home games since January of 2011. I expect that trend to continue tomorrow as Stauskas regains his form and Glenn Robinson III is the surprise star against a Michigan State squad that doesn’t have anyone to match up with him defensively. Michigan wins and takes control of the Big Ten once again with a 77-71 win.

Michigan hoops preview: Michigan State

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Michigan vs MSU banner
#20/20 Michigan (18-7, 10-3) vs #13/14 Michigan State (22-5, 11-3)
Sunday, Feb. 23 | Ann Arbor, Mich. | 12 p.m. EST | CBS
75.0 Points/gm 77.6
(647-1,352) 47.9 Field Goal % 47.0 (748-1,591)
(209-532) 39.3 3-pt FG % 38.7 (222-573)
(259-348) 76.5 Free Throw % 69.8 (376-539)
14.8 FT Made/gm 13.9
32.9 Reb/gm 38.0
14.4 Assists/gm 17.5
9.8 Turnovers/gm 11.1
64.8 Points/gm 65.3
(602-1,382) 43.6 Field Goal % 39.1 (581-1,486)
(142-426) 33.3 3-pt FG % 32.4 (180-556)
31.0 Opp. Reb/gm 33.3
5.2 Steals/gm 7.4
2.7 Blocks/gm 4.8
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (16.7), Caris LeVert (13.0) Points/gm Gary Harris (17.8), Adreian Payne (16.7)
Mitch McGary (8.3), Jon Horford (4.6) Reb/gm Branden Dawson (8.7), Adreian Payne (7.5)


The Big Ten race is coming down to the final stretch and what seemed like a two team race two weeks ago has brought Iowa and Wisconsin back into play. Both Michigan and Michigan State have stumbled lately, the former going 3-3 since Jan. 30 and the latter 4-4 since Jan. 25. Still, both are considered the favorites to win the conference and each has a huge opportunity to seize control on Sunday.

Michigan knocked off the Spartans in East Lansing on Jan. 25, starting MSU’s recent slide. It was Michigan’s third straight win over a top ten team in the span of eight days. But in each of the past two weekends Michigan has dropped the return trip to those teams, first an 18-point spanking at Iowa and then a 13-point loss to Wisconsin. Michigan State hopes to hand Michigan a third dose of revenge.

A Michigan win would put the Wolverines a half game ahead of Michigan State with four games remaining. None are against teams in the top half of the Big Ten standings. A loss would drop Michigan a game and a half back. MSU has just three games left, though two of them are against Iowa and Ohio State. Can Michigan pull off the win? Let’s take a look.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Gary Harris (G) 32.8 17.8 41.6 34.1 79.6 4.5 2.8 1.9 0.3 2.0
Adreian Payne (C) 28.3 16.7 52.9 44.1 78.8 7.5 1.5 1.9 0.9 0.6
Keith Appling (G) 32.2 13.9 45.2 39.5 69.7 3.5 4.9 2.0 0.5 1.3
Branden Dawson (F)* 28.4 10.2 60.4 00.0 57.9 8.7 1.9 1.4 0.9 1.2
Denzel Valentine (G) 29.0 8.1 39.5 32.5 73.3 6.3 3.8 1.8 0.4 1.1
Matt Costello (F) 17.7 4.7 63.6 00.0 66.7 3.7 0.9 0.6 1.4 0.3
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Travis Trice (G) 22.0 7.2 41.2 44.3 72.0 1.6 2.5 1.0 0.2 1.0
Kenny Kaminski (F) 14.2 6.0 49.4 47.6 60.0 1.7 0.5 0.3 0.4 0.4
Alvin Ellis III (G) 8.7 2.4 52.4 50.0 59.1 0.7 0.4 0.6 0.1 0.5
Alex Gauna (F) 7.7 1.8 55.3 00.0 30.8 1.3 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.1
Gavin Schilling (F) 6.6 1.5 51.6 00.0 52.9 1.8 0.3 0.5 0.2 0.0

If you’ve watched a single minute of a Michigan State game over the past few weeks you’ve undoubtedly heard all about their injury woes. Tom Izzo is shouting it from East Lansing rooftops, Spartan message boards are preemptively excusing each loss on the latest injury du jour, and in-game commentators have hammered it home as if MSU is the only team in the country facing injuries.

Is it unfortunate for those in the green and white? Sure. Just like Michigan losing Mitch McGary for the season has forced the Wolverines to adjust. But in all reality injuries are a factor every year and in this case it has allowed Izzo to develop one what should be one of the deepest teams in the country by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

When these two teams squared off on Jan. 25 in East Lansing, the Spartans were without big men Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson. Since then, Payne has returned to average 18 points and seven rebounds in five games, and Dawson’s status remains up in the air. He was supposed to get the pins removed from his hand on Thursday, but whether he’ll be ready to play –and if so, effectively — just three days later is anyone’s guess. It’s likely that he won’t play.

Regardless, Izzo has gotten solid contributions from three-point assassin Kenny Kaminski and up-and-comer Matt Costello in Dawson’s wake. Kaminski has hit 13-of-30 threes since the first Michigan game, averaging eight points a game in that span. Costello does a little bit of everything, following up a nine-point performance in the first meeting with a 12-point, 11-rebound game against Iowa.

But make no mistake, Michigan State is a team that goes as its guards go. Gary Harris was brilliant on Thursday night at Purdue, knocking down 6-of-9 three-pointers en route to 25 points. But in the last two losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin, Harris made just 1-of-14 from downtown and 8-of-35 overall.

Much has been made about Michigan’s inability to prevent opposing shooters from going off over the past few weeks and Harris was the one that got that trend started. He was virtually unstoppable in the first meeting, netting 27 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting and 9-of-16 shooting overall. Michigan then allowed Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble to have similar performances. Michigan can’t afford to allow Harris to do it again.

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 8 McNeese State W 98-56
Nov. 12 #1 Kentucky^ W 78-74
Nov. 15 Columbia W 62-53
Nov. 18 Portland W 82-67
Nov. 22 Virginia Tech* W 96-77
Nov. 23 Oklahoma* W 87-76
Nov. 29 Mount St. Mary’s W 98-65
Dec. 4 North Carolina# L 65-79
Dec. 14 Oakland W 67-63
Dec. 17 North Florida W 78-48
Dec. 21 at Texas W 92-78
Dec. 28 New Orleans W 101-48
Dec. 31 at Penn State W 79-63
Dec. 31 Nebraska W 67-57
Jan. 4 at Indiana W 73-56
Jan. 7 #3 Ohio State W 72-68 OT
Jan. 11 Minnesota W 87-75 OT
Jan. 15 at Northwestern W 54-40
Jan. 18 at Illinois W 78-62
Jan. 12 Indiana W 71-66
Jan. 25 #21 Michigan L 75-80
Jan. 28 at #15 Iowa W 71-69 OT
Feb. 1 Georgetown L 60-64
Feb. 6 Penn State W 82-67
Feb. 9 at Wisconsin L 58-60
Feb. 13 Northwestern W 85-70
Feb. 16 Nebraska L 51-60
Feb. 20 at Purdue W 94-79
^Champions Classic, *Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, #Big Ten/ACC Challenge
The Series

Michigan holds a 96-76 all-time lead in the series and a 59-28 all-time lead in Ann Arbor. Michigan has won five of the last seven in the series including the last three in the Crisler Center. The last two have been decided by one point with Michigan winning 60-59 on Jan. 17, 2012 and 58-57 on March 3, 2013.


• Sunday’s meeting will be the sixth straight in which both teams are nationally ranked

• In his last five games, Caris LeVert has averaged a team-high 16.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, second only to Jordan Morgan’s 5.6. Zak Irvin has averaged a second-best 11.6 points during that span while shooting 48.0 percent from three-point range.

• Derrick Walton Jr. scored a career high 19 points in the first meeting against Michigan State, converting 9-of-10 free throws, including 8-of-9 down the stretch

Making a statement: Michigan 80 – Michigan State 75

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Walton win vs MSU 1-25-14(Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Having already won eight straight games, including the first six of conference play and two straight over top-10 teams, Michigan traveled to East Lansing on Saturday night playing with house money. By the time the final buzzer sounded in a quiet Breslin Center, the Wolverines had the biggest stack in the Big Ten.

After winning at No.3 Wisconsin last Saturday and then edging an up-and-coming 10th-ranked Iowa squad on Wednesday, Michigan somehow found a way to outlast a beat-up, third-ranked Michigan State team 80-75. Michigan handed the Spartans their first loss in conference play and took the outright lead in the Big Ten at 7-0.

Walton vs MSU 1-25-14

Derrick Walton Jr scored 19 points and calmly sank 9-of-10 free throws down the stretch (

The Wolverines, who have been without preseason All-American center Mitch McGary since the start of their current winning streak, were led once again by sophomore Nik Stauskas. The Canadian sniper poured in 19 points on 5-of-6 three-point shooting and only 2-of-6 two-point shooting but didn’t reach the free-throw line for the first time all season.

In the lead-up to the monster in-state match-up, much was made about the injuries both sides have suffered, as Michigan State was without center Adriean Payne for the fifth straight game from a battle with plantar fasciitis and starting power forward Branden Dawson, who broke his hand slapping a table in frustration in the middle of last week. Michigan played without McGary. The Spartans’ starting guards, Keith Appling and Gary Harris, are also said to be banged up, but both played at least 37 minutes.

Still, both teams’ guards were simply outstanding, with Stauskas, Caris LeVert, and Derrick Walton battling Appling, Harris, and Denzel Valentine all night.

Michigan got off to a great start, making four straight field goal attempts to take a 10-2 lead and keep the crowd out of it for a while. The Spartans refused to lay down, though, and went on a 28-12 run themselves by forcing the Wolverines into several ill-advised two-point jumpers. Every time Michigan State made a defensive stand, the crowd roared louder and louder, urging their Spartans on to a 36-30 halftime lead on the back of Gary Harris’s 12 points.

After starting so strong, Michigan started clanking shots left and right and struggled to get the ball inside the arc at all. Repeatedly it seemed Michigan State would get away with hard defensive checking while the Wolverines could not keep their counterparts away from the hoop, letting the home team make 55 percent of their two-point attempts. Although the Wolverines trailed by just six, most pundits thought Michigan State would run away with the game in the second half.

For the longest time, those pundits looked like psychics, as Gary Harris went to work again, scoring eight points in the first 6:30 of the second stanza and leading Michigan State to a 49-41 lead. But the young and pesky Wolverines were the ones refusing to give up, continuing to claw their way back to a tie game with 7:47 left. Whatever John Beilein told his team at the break worked, as Michigan started moving the ball fluidly around the perimeter and into the paint, forcing the refs to send them to the line, where the Maize and Blue were rock solid.

Just before the game was knotted up, things started to get chippy between the two rivals when Spartan guard Russell Byrd blocked a Glenn Robinson III shot and then seemed to have a few words with him as he stood over Michigan’s sophomore star. Fifth-year senior Jordan Morgan quickly came over to sort things out as both teams mouthed off to each other and formed a little scrum. Cooler heads prevailed and the arguments were broken up, but Morgan and Appling were tagged with double technicals, giving Morgan his fourth personal foul.

On the ensuing possession, Caris LeVert hit his third and final three of the game to tie it at 53. Michigan State bounced back quickly with two free throws on four attempts from Gary Harris and a big three by freshman Alvin Ellis III – just his third triple of the season. Not to be outdone, fellow freshman Derrick Walton, Jr. knocked down his second trey of the evening to bring the score to 58 all.

Nik Stauskas made 5-of-6 three-pointers en route to a 19-point performance (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

Nik Stauskas made 5-of-6 three-pointers en route to a 19-point performance (Dustin Johnson, UMHoops)

The two teams would be tied once more at 60 until Stauskas knocked down his fifth three of the game and third straight of the second half to finally give Michigan a three-point lead with just over three minutes remaining. Following the crucial make, the Wolverines got two critical stops and a beautiful fast-break, and-one, finger-roll scoop from Walton to open the margin to six.

From there, Michigan’s free throw shooting won out despite the Spartans extending the game with 11 points in the final minute, including another three a piece from Harris and Ellis III. The Wolverines did a wonderful job of getting the ball inbounds to LeVert, Walton, and Robinson III, who combined to make 14-of-16 freebies in the final two minutes.

The stark contrast in overall play from the first half to the second half has to be credited to Beilein’s magical offensive mind. Michigan State, physically dominant and clearly the more confident team with 16 points in the paint and eight points each off turnovers and on the fast break, were simply out-played in the second half. Michigan recorded nine second-chance points and outscored the Spartans 5-0 on the fast break. Michigan also held the upper hand in rebounding, as they grabbed 36.7 percent of their own misses while holding Michigan State’s offensive rebounding mark to 29.4 percent, and won the game with their supreme 57.9 percent mark from downtown

Time and again the officials seemed to favor Michigan State, at one point even ignoring Spike Albrecht’s call for timeout and giving the ball instead to the home team on a held ball, but Michigan battled through until the officials started calling questionable fouls on both sides of the ball. Ultimately the Wolverines, with 30 tries at the line, attempted seven more free throws than the Spartans and made nine more than their rivals, but 16 of those came when Michigan State was playing catch-up late.

When the game was finished and both teams shook hands, however, the difference came down to guard play. Stauskas was the best player on the floor, making smooth, how-did-that-look-so-easy step-backs time and again because he couldn’t get into the paint, but LeVert also shook off a rough early start to score 17 huge points on 10 shots and Derrick Walton was clutch all over the place with 19 points of his own. The trio also managed to dish out 11 assists to only five turnovers (three from LeVert) and held strong defensively.

For Michigan State, Harris was phenomenal in making nine of his 16 attempts, including 4-of-6 from downtown, to record a game- and career-high 27, to go along with three steals and two assists. But his 5-of-9 mark from the free throw line will haunt him for a long time. Appling also had his moments, recording the game’s only double-double with 10 points and 10 assists, but his 3-of-11 mark from the floor and 0-of-2 three-point shooting left much to be desired.

Michigan must now be considered one of the most surprising conference leaders in recent memory and certainly has a nice path to a Big Ten championship if the Wolverines continue to play so well. With last night’s win, the Maize and Blue became the first team in nearly 30 years to knock off three straight top-10 opponents in the regular season. Now, the Wolverines face a three-game run of Purdue, at Indiana, and Nebraska that seems much more winnable than the stretch they just-conquered.

The Wolverines now must stay focused on each game at hand, but also play with a swagger in realizing that the Big Ten is theirs to lose. With a big stack in front of them at the best table in America, Michigan cannot simply protect their lead, and they almost certainly will not.

After all, Stauskas and company will not let the Wolverines do anything but keep collecting the chips, one hand at a time.

Three Stars: 

***Nik Stauskas***
19 points (7-of-12 FG, 5-of-6 3PT), four assists, two rebounds, one steal, one turnover in 38 minutes

**Gary Harris**
27 points (9-of-16 FG, 4-of-6 3PT, 5-of-9 FT), five rebounds (two offensive), two assists, three steals, one turnover in 38 minutes

*Derrick Walton, Jr.*
19 points (4-of-7 FG, 2-of-2 3PT, 9-of-10 FT), four assists, six rebounds (one offensive), one turnover in 30 minutes

Quick Hitters:

• Michigan’s second half couldn’t have gone much better, as the Wolverines made 62.5 percent of their threes and 42.9 percent of their twos after making 54.5 percent and 31.3 percent of those shots, respectively, in the first half. But perhaps the biggest moment came on the sideline. Midway through the second stanza, John Beilein got as upset at the officials as he likely ever has in his career, but Stauskas held him back just enough to save a technical foul call that could have been devastating.

 With last night’s victory at the Breslin Center, Michigan has now won five of their last seven face-offs with the Spartans and two of the last four in enemy territory. The game was also the first time in Big Ten history that two teams with records of at least 6-0 in the conference squared off, and it also marked the second time in Beilein’s career at Michigan that the Wolverines have won four straight Big Ten road games.

Final Game Stats
01 Glenn Robinson III* 2-8 0-2 5-6 0 1 1 2 9 1 3 0 0 26
10 Derrick Walton* 4-7 2-2 9-10 1 4 5 2 19 4 1 0 0 30
11 Nik Stauskas* 7-12 5-6 0-0 0 2 2 2 19 4 1 0 1 38
52 Jordan Morgan* 1-2 0-0 2-2 4 1 5 5 4 0 0 0 0 19
23 Caris LeVert* 4-10 3-5 6-7 0 8 8 1 17 3 3 0 0 39
02 Spike Albrecht 0-2 0-1 3-5 1 2 3 0 3 1 1 0 0 10
15 Jon Horford 3-3 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 3 6 1 1 3 0 17
21 Zak Irvin 1-5 1-3 0-0 0 1 1 1 3 0 1 0 0 17
44 Max Bielfeldt 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 4
Totals 22-49 11-19 25-30 11 24 35 16 80 14 11 3 1 200
Michigan State 26-56 7-17 16-23 10 19 29 22 75 18 5 5 8 200
Full Stats

Michigan hoops preview: Michigan State

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Michigan vs MSU banner
#21/25 Michigan (14-4, 6-0) vs #3/3 Michigan State (18-1, 7-0)
Saturday, Jan. 25 | East Lansing, Mich. | 7 p.m. EST | ESPN
77.2 Points/gm 79.9
(489-1,005) 48.7 Field Goal % 47.8(545-1,141)
(152-398) 38.2 3-pt FG % 38.5 (146-379)
(259-348) 74.4 Free Throw % 70.0 (282-403)
14.4 FT Made/gm 14.8
33.4 Reb/gm 39.5
15.6 Assists/gm 17.8
9.2 Turnovers/gm 11.5
63.7 Points/gm 63.9
(428-993) 43.1 Field Goal % 37.9(412-1,087)
(100-307) 32.6 3-pt FG % 31.3 (125-400)
31.1 Opp. Reb/gm 33.9
6.0 Steals/gm 8.0
2.9 Blocks/gm 5.3
Individual Leaders
N. Stauskas (18.5), G. Robinson III (13.9) Points/gm Gary Harris (18.3), Adreian Payne (16.2)
Mitch McGary (8.3), Jon Horford (5.1) Reb/gm Branden Dawson (8.7), Adreian Payne (7.7)


Following back-to-back wins over top 10 teams Michigan has played itself to the top of the Big Ten and set up the early game of the year for the conference title race against heated instate rival Michigan State. ESPN College GameDay will be on hand for Saturday’s battle between the only two teams still unbeaten in the Big Ten and the winner will gain the upper hand. The team that Michigan beat on Wednesday, Iowa, is the only other Big Ten team with fewer than three conference losses and the Hawkeyes have yet to play MSU.

Can Michigan pull off a win in the Breslin Center in the face of what is sure to be the most intimidating atmosphere it will face all season? Remember, since its 61-57 upset in East Lansing on Jan. 27, 2011 no one in the conference has a better record than the Wolverines. Or will the Spartans protect their home court and end Michigan’s eight-game winning streak? Let’s take a look.

The Starters
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Gary Harris (G) 32.2 18.3 43.1 33.3 83.8 4.5 2.8 1.9 0.3 2.1
Adreian Payne (C)* 28.8 16.2 52.4 43.9 80.3 7.7 1.5 1.7 1.0 0.7
Keith Appling (G) 32.4 15.6 47.0 42.6 72.2 3.6 4.6 2.0 0.5 1.2
Branden Dawson (F)* 28.4 10.2 60.4 00.0 57.9 8.7 1.9 1.4 0.9 1.2
Denzel Valentine (G) 28.0 7.6 38.6 30.2 71.4 6.0 3.9 1.6 0.5 1.2
Matt Costello (F) 16.2 3.5 56.4 00.0 53.3 3.2 0.7 0.6 1.7 0.3
The Others
Minutes Points FG% 3FG% FT% Reb Ast TO Blk Stl
Travis Trice (G) 20.3 7.1 41.4 41.8 75.0 1.2 2.2 1.1 0.2 1.2
Kenny Kaminski (F) 10.8 5.2 51.3 54.8 62.5 1.3 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.4
Alex Gauna (F) 8.9 2.1 68.0 00.0 30.0 1.6 0.3 0.3 0.3 0.1

The big news coming out of East Lansing this week was an injury that Branden Dawson (6’6″, 225) suffered on Thursday. While watching film, he slammed his hand on a table, breaking a bone and requiring surgery that will keep him out of action for four to five weeks. That’s a huge loss for the Spartans’ front court as Dawson leads the team with 8.7 rebounds per game and also adds 10.2 points and about a block per game. In nine of the 18 games he has played this season he recorded at least ten rebounds, so his presence will surely be missed.

Starting in his place will be redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski (6’8″, 225). It will be the first start of his career, but he presents a different challenge than Dawson does. Though a couple inches taller than Dawson, Kaminski isn’t as big of a presence down low, however, he’s a threat to step out and hit a three. He has made 17-of-31 attempts, leading the team in three-point percentage. In fact, he has only taken eight two-pointers so far this season, so Michigan’s defense won’t be able to back off Kaminski.

Dawson’s injury isn’t the only one on the team as senior center Adreian Payne (6’10”, 245) has missed the past four games with a sprained foot. Tom Izzo said that the chances of Payne playing on Saturday are “slim to none” but anyone who knows the rivalry knows Izzo is likely downplaying the chances as a bit of gamesmanship. But even if Payne plays he won’t be 100 percent, and if he doesn’t, Michigan State will miss his 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.

The other big man that will start is sophomore Matt Costello (6’9″, 240). He averages 16 minutes per game, but has seen 22 or more in three of the last four games in Payne’s absence. In those four, he’s averaging 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds, both of which are higher than his season-long averages. In the Spartans’ overtime victory over Minnesota two weeks ago, Costello totaled seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks, his best performance of the season.

The backcourt is led by shooting guard Gary Harris (6’4″, 210), one of the leading candidates for Big Ten player of the year. The sophomore is averaging 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and nearly three assists per game. He shoots a lot of threes – 14 more than Nik Stauskas has taken – at a 33.3 percent clip, but in his last two games he has made 6-of-10 from downtown. In fact, Harris has made 15-of-22 overall from the field in the last two games against Illinois and Indiana, and he’ll need to keep up the same rate if the Spartans are to win.

Senior point guard Keith Appling (6’1″, 185) also finds himself on player of the year watch lists, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per contest. While he has taken a little more than half the number of threes as Harris, Appling is making them at a better rate (42.6 percent). However, unlike Harris, he is in a bit of a rut, having made just one of his last ten from downtown and 10-of-32 overall in the last three games.

Sophomore wing Denzel Valentine (6’5″, 225) is not a great shooter (38.6 overall and 30.2 three-point), but is the team’s third-leading rebounder and will have to hit the glass hard with Dawson and likely Payne out. Valentine averages 7.6 points and six rebounds per game, but has stepped it up the last two games, averaging 12.5 points and nine boards.

Junior guard Travis Trice (6’0″, 170) is the other guard that sees a lot of action, averaging 7.1 points and 2.2 assists per game. Heh as only scored in double figures five times this season, but he’s a capable shooter at 41.4 percent overall and 41.8 percent from three.

The Schedule
Date Opponent Score
Nov. 8 McNeese State W 98-56
Nov. 12 #1 Kentucky^ W 78-74
Nov. 15 Columbia W 62-53
Nov. 18 Portland W 82-67
Nov. 22 Virginia Tech* W 96-77
Nov. 23 Oklahoma* W 87-76
Nov. 29 Mount St. Mary’s W 98-65
Dec. 4 North Carolina# L 65-79
Dec. 14 Oakland W 67-63
Dec. 17 North Florida W 78-48
Dec. 21 at Texas W 92-78
Dec. 28 New Orleans W 101-48
Dec. 31 at Penn State W 79-63
Dec. 31 Nebraska W 67-57
Jan. 4 at Indiana W 73-56
Jan. 7 #3 Ohio State W 72-68 OT
Jan. 11 Minnesota W 87-75 OT
Jan. 15 at Northwestern W 54-40
Jan. 18 at Illinois W 78-62
Jan. 12 Indiana W 71-66
^Champions Classic, *Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, #Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Like Michigan, Tom Izzo’s squad has really challenged itself with its non-conference schedule. That has been one of Izzo’s philosophies since he has been at Michigan State and one of the reasons his teams are always tough down the stretch in Big Ten play.

The second game of the season was a matchup with then-No. 1 Kentucky in Chicago and the Spartans won by four. They beat Oklahoma (currently ranked 25th) by 11 in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and won by 14 at Texas in MSU’s only true road game before conference play began.

The only loss came at the hands of North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Tarheels were able to dominate the glass, outrebounding Michigan State by 11 – something Michigan hopes to repeat with Dawson and Payne out.

In Big Ten play, the Spartans have survived a pair of overtime games, topping Ohio State by four and Minnesota by 12. Outside of those two, Michigan State has played three of the bottom five in the conference – Penn State, Northwestern and Illinois – and Indiana twice.

The Series

Michigan holds a 95-76 all-time lead in the series, but Michigan State leads 48-36 in East Lansing. Michigan has lost its last two at the Breslin Center including a 75-52 defeat last season, but stunned the Spartans there on Jan. 27, 2011. Overall, Michigan has won four of the last six in the series, but the home team has won the last five.


• Michigan is 6-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since the 2002-03 season

• Nik Stauskas has recorded three straight 20-point games and nine so far this season, the most in the Big Ten

• Tomorrow’s meeting will be the fifth straight in which both teams are nationally ranked

• Gary Harris and Zak Irvin were high school teammates at Hamilton Southeastern in Fishers, Ind.

Michigan at Michigan State quick thoughts

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

#4 Michigan vs #8 Michigan State
Tuesday, Feb. 12 | 9pm ET | ESPN
21-3 (8-3) Record 20-4 (9-2)
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
C. Michigan 88-73
Northwestern 94-66
Iowa 95-67
Nebraska 62-47
#9 Minnesota 83-75
Purdue 68-53
Illinois 74-60
Northwestern 68-46
#10 Ohio State 76-74 OT
Wins #7 Kansas 67-64
Texas Southern 69-41
Boise State 74-70
Oakland 70-52
La.-Lafayette 63-60
Nicholls State 84-39
Ark.-Pine Bluff 76-44
Loyola (IL) 73-61
Tuskeegee 92-56
Bowling Green 64-53
Texas 67-56
Purdue 84-61
Iowa 62-59
Nebraska 66-56
Penn State 81-72
#11 Ohio State 59-56
Wisconsin 49-47
Illinois 80-75
#18 Minnesota 61-50
Purdue 78-65
#15 Ohio State 56-53
#3 Indiana 73-81
Wisconsin 62-65 OT
Losses #23 Connecticut 62-66
Miami 59-67
#9 Minnesota 63-76
#7 Indiana 70-75
77.0 Points Per Game 69.7
60.4 Scoring Defense 59.2
695-for-1,396 (49.8%) Field Goal % 600-for-1,283 (46.8%)
554-for-1,340 (41.3%) Def. Field Goal % 500-for-1,283 (39.0%)
198-for-487 (40.7%) 3-point % 123-for-345 (35.7%)
157-for-491 (32.0%) Def. 3-point % 130-for-415 (31.3%)
261-for-372 (70.2%) Free Throw % 350-for-490 (71.4%)
10.9 FT Made/Game 14.6
36.3 Rebounds Per Game 37.4
30.0 Opp. Reb. Per Game 30.8
15.3 Assists Per Game 13.8
9.3 Turnovers Per Game 13.7
5.7 Steals Per Game 8.6
2.8 Blocks Per Game 3.7
G – Trey Burke (18.2)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (16.0)
Leading Scorer G – Keith Appling (14.1)
G – Gary Harris (12.7)
F – Mitch McGary (6.1)
F – Glenn Robinson III (5.5)
Leading Rebounder F – Adreian Payne (6.8)
F – Branden Dawson (6.5)

In the Big Ten, there’s simply no rest for the weary – or for the wounded. After dropping two of three supremely difficult challenges over the past week and a half, a stretch that included two road games and two top-10 matchups, Michigan takes to the road once again tonight (9pm on ESPN) to close out a brutal four-game stretch in East Lansing, where they face the surging Spartans.

Time and time again, it seems Tom Izzo’s hard-nosed squads project to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten throughout the non-conference season, then inevitably rebound by the time January rolls around to be right in the thick of things. This year is no different, as Michigan State actually leads the conference outright with a 9-2 mark after dropping two of their first eight games of the season.

For the first time since Magic Johnson was a freshman in this matchup, both teams enter the game ranked in the top 10 in the country. Who will have what it takes to pull it out? Here are a few keys to the game if Michigan is to have the answer:

1. Battle Down Low: Since Jordan Morgan injured his ankle early on in Columbus nearly one full month ago, Michigan has simply not been the same team on either end of the floor. The redshirt junior has never been one to put up big numbers, but his presence on the court, especially against big, physical teams down low, cannot go understated. Morgan, when healthy, is one of this team’s best rebounders and one-on-one defenders, and even though Mitch McGary has admirably boosted his level of play recently, Michigan needs Morgan to be healthy tonight. The fact of the matter is that all three of the Wolverines’ losses have come when Morgan played four or fewer minutes.

If Morgan is not healthy, which is still in question, Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne could spell doom for Michigan. Those two big men combine to score nearly 19 points a game and grab 14 rebounds as well, and even though neither is incredibly consistent, Glenn Robinson III simply cannot match up defensively with either of them.

Perhaps most impressive about Izzo’s talented front court this year is the way in which they shoot free throws. Nix gets to the line more than any other Spartan besides Keith Appling and is making 73.6 percent of his attempts there while Payne leads the team in shooting 78.8 percent from the charity stripe. This could be the night where we see a starting lineup change for Michigan. McGary has to be almost a lock to start tonight, and Morgan would be a huge commodity if he can give John Beilein 20 minutes or so. With Branden Dawson also presenting a huge matchup problem for the Maize and Blue, Robinson III could be taken out of the starting lineup in favor of a true big man, whether that’s Morgan or Jon Horford.

2. Get the Freshmen Involved: Michigan’s tough stretch over the past three games has been well-documented, and while no team wants to play at Indiana, versus Ohio State, and at Wisconsin back-to-back-to-back, Michigan is simply experiencing the nature of the conference this season. Every Big Ten team is going through the meat grinder at some point, and if Michigan can pull out two of these four games, they will be in excellent position to compete for the conference title. If that is to happen, though, Michigan’s freshmen, particularly Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III, need to elevate their games.

Whether Jordan Morgan plays or not, Michigan will have its hands full down low with Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne

That duo was dynamite for Beilein throughout the non-conference portion of the schedule, but over the past two weeks, they have combined to average 14 points per game while shooting an ugly 33.3 percent from the floor. To put those numbers in perspective, on the season Stauskas and Robinson III both average more than 11 points per game and shoot better than 48 percent from the field. Yes, these two are freshmen, but they are key members of a nationally-contending team. When the going gets rough, no one gets a pass, whether veterans or newbies. Look for Trey Burke to get these two involved early and often by driving and kicking and utilizing the pick-and-roll to find open teammates. If Stauskas and Robinson III reach their season average, Michigan State has no chance of winning. If they struggle to put the ball in the hoop again, Michigan could get run out of East Lansing.

3. Exploit the Weakness: Tom Izzo’s teams usually have a general blueprint from year to year. They never shoot the ball extremely well but never shoot poorly enough to be a bottom-dweller, they always play solid, physical defense, and they rebound the ball. They also turn the ball over a lot. This year, the Spartans are turning the ball over a whopping 14 times per game, and all seven guys that see more than 20 minutes cough it up more than once a night. Michigan never forces turnovers at a high clip, but if they simply take advantage of the times Michigan State will hand the ball over, the fast break will be huge. Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. are lethally efficient running the floor, and a hot Stauskas could torch the Spartans with wide open shots from the outside. Michigan absolutely needs to run when presented the opportunity.

Furthermore, if there is one game to use the 1-3-1 defense in, it is tonight. Obviously this obscure zone has not been seen often since Beilein’s early years in Ann Arbor, but Michigan has the athletes to use the zone effectively, and with some of the matchup problems Michigan is facing, it wouldn’t be a bad time to try it to both slow Michigan State down on offense and force turnovers. Appling and freshman Gary Harris are the only major threats to score from downtown with Travis Trice out tonight, so if Michigan can stick on those guys in the zone, the home team could have difficulties generating offense against the 1-3-1.

Prediction: It seems that every game Michigan plays these days is vastly important, and with the huge rivalry piled on top of a top-10 battle tonight, this primetime matchup is no different. The winner of this game will be in tremendous fighting position for the conference championship, and with four of Michigan’s final six games coming at home, where they have lost just once since 2011, the Wolverines need to be ready. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been rock solid for Michigan lately and needs to lead the way alongside Burke and company, and I think he will do just that. With Zack Novak reportedly scheduled to be in the house, look for Hardaway to drop 20 while Stauskas does his best Chesterton impression with four threes as Michigan grinds out a 70-66 win.