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Posts Tagged ‘Keith Appling’

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.

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
Offense
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
Defense
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
*Injured
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.

Notes

• 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 (MGoBlue.com)

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
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
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
Offense
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
Defense
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
*Injured
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.

Notes

• 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 58 – Michigan State 57: Wolverines protect home court

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013


Final 1st 2nd Total
#4 Michigan (24-5, 11-5) 28 30 58
#9 Michigan State (22-7, 11-5) 31 26 57

Trey Burke and Mitch McGary celebrate Michigan's win over Michigan State (MGoBlue.com)

From the beginning of this afternoon’s rivalry matchup, something felt different. This game would not end in a 23-point blowout like it did three weeks ago in East Lansing. No, this game would be war.

Michigan State came out hot in the first half, making five of 11 shots from downtown and rebounding exactly half of their own misses. But Michigan, not to be embarrassed at home, hung tight.

Adreian Payne and Gary Harris were the cogs for Izzo’s offense, combining for 19 points on 14 shots, including 3-of-5 from deep, but Trey Burke teamed up with Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway, Jr. to put up 23 points on just 14 shots of their own in the opening stanza.

There was one difference though.

While Michigan State made it rain from deep, leading to a 31-28 halftime advantage, Michigan did work inside, throwing down four dunks while missing all six of their three-point looks, the exact opposite of what anyone could expect from these two teams.

Presumably the biggest reason for that disparity was the loss of Nik Stauskas for Michigan. Stauskas, the Wolverines’ best three-point shooter, got an inadvertent elbow to the eye and started gushing blood while Michigan successfully ran a fast-break before the refs noticed. He was immediately taken to the locker room and returned the bench briefly in the first half, but did not come back out for the second half, playing only four minutes total.

The game had to go on, though, and Caris LeVert was called upon to replace most of the Canadian’s minutes, which would include a defensive assignment on Michigan State’s freshman sharpshooter Gary Harris.

Throughout the first half, no team could pull away, but the Spartans held a comfortable five- to seven-point lead for the majority of the 20 minutes before a huge 4-0 run for Michigan to go into halftime.

After the break, it was again Trey Burke getting it done for Michigan, as the Wolverines took a slight lead early and played lock-down defense, allowing fewer than 10 points 13 minutes into the half. Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary were also huge, combining for 14 points, all in the post, early on, to pad the lead.

Michigan’s offense never hit full speed, making only 42 percent of their shots (and zero three-pointers), but their defense, led by Morgan’s staunch play down low and a few big charges drawn in the first five minutes of the half, was the unexpected upside for the Wolverines.

Slowly but surely, the Maize and Blue built a lead – five points, then seven points, then double digits – as the game went on, and the crowd became louder and louder.

Michigan dominated the paint against the Spartans (MGoBlue.com)

But Michigan State was not going down without a fight. Late in the second half, as Michigan’s lead reached a high of 10 points, the Spartans needed a boost in a big way. They got it in a crazy sequence that saw the Spartans score seven straight points in under one minute to cut the lead to three, and a Gary Harris three with 1:51 remaining cut Michigan’s lead to two. Just as Michigan seemed to have the game locked down, it started to fall through their hands.

In the furious final minute then, Michigan State ended up tying the game at the free throw line and gaining possession with about 40 seconds left and the score knotted at 56. All of a sudden, Michigan’s lead was gone and a huge win seemed unlikely with the momentum swing.

Then Trey Burke showed once again why he is perhaps the best player in the country, picking Keith Appling’s pocket clean with 26 seconds on the clock and throwing down a breakaway dunk to give Michigan the lead with 22 seconds to go.

On Michigan State’s next possession, Derrick Nix collected the ball in the post and was fouled by Hardaway with eight seconds left. With the arena blaring, however, the usually-reliable Nix missed the first free throw but made the second to cut the lead to one. LeVert then inbounded the ball to McGary, who was promptly fouled for a one-and-one opportunity.

McGary, despite making two clutch free throws earlier in the second half, missed the front end, and Adreian Payne got the rebound out of a scrum and called a timeout to give Michigan State the last look with five seconds remaining.

Keith Appling, whose shooting woes continued today, inbounded to Gary Harris, who was hounded by Hardaway and threw the ball to the wing.

Burke was there for the steal. Game over.

There was no denying who the best player on the floor was, as superstar sophomore point guard Trey Burke put up a routine 21 points, eight assists, and five steals to just two turnovers. His free throw shooting (5-of-6) was huge again, and despite going 0-for-3 from downtown, he always seemed to make the right pass in the clutch, play tough defense on Michigan State’s talented guards, and draw fouls at key times.

Unlike in past losses though, Burke got some help today from some unlikely faces, and just about every Wolverine contributed in some way.

McGary dominated fellow freshman Matt Costello in the paint over a short stretch midway through the second half, and Morgan played tough defense all day in the post and provided a vocal presence, slapping the floor on one occasion after a big bucket in response to the Spartans’ doing the same a number of times. Perhaps the biggest unsung hero of the game, though, was Caris LeVert, who played a whopping 30 minutes and scored eight big points while playing strong defense on Harris throughout. LeVert’s two steals were also huge, and even though Harris scored 16 points total, it took him 16 shots to get there, due in large part to LeVert’s efforts.

Nothing seemed to go as scripted today, and no one expects to have a key scorer miss the majority of a game from injury, but Michigan seemed to have just enough answers to get it done. And even though the defense has been average at best throughout Big Ten play, the Wolverines got it done on that end of the court and will certainly keep this tape for future reference.

Despite allowing Izzo’s big, tough squad to rebound nearly half of their misses, Michigan got it done by holding onto the ball (with only seven turnovers) and capitalizing on the Spartans’ 18 cough-ups. It was a different story from the debacle three weeks ago, and a win that Michigan will certainly look to build upon as they fight for seeding in the Big Ten and Big Dance after sending MSU to their third straight loss.

In the end, home court rules in college basketball, and nowhere bigger than at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor. Today, Michigan showed you why.

Final Game Stats
# Name FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA FT-FTA OR DR TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN
01 Glenn Robinson III* 4-6 0-0 0-0 2 1 3 2 8 0 0 0 0 31
52 Jordan Morgan* 2-4 0-0 0-0 3 4 7 5 4 0 0 0 3 24
03 Trey Burke* 8-17 0-3 5-6 0 4 4 1 21 8 2 1 5 38
10 Tim Hardaway Jr.* 3-12 0-3 0-0 0 7 7 3 6 2 3 0 0 38
11 Nik Stauskas* 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 4
02 Spike Albrecht 0-2 0-2 0-0 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 7
04 Mitch McGary 4-6 0-0 3-5 3 1 4 2 11 0 2 0 0 21
13 Matt Vogrich 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
15 Jon Horford 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 4
23 Caris LeVert 4-11 0-3 0-0 1 0 1 2 8 0 0 0 2 30
Totals 25-59 0-12 8-11 10 19 29 17 58 10 7 1 11 200
Michigan State 21-59 6-22 9-12 19 25 44 15 57 9 18 2 3 200

Michigan vs Michigan State quick thoughts

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013


#4 Michigan vs #9 Michigan State
Sunday, Mar. 3 | 4pm ET | CBS
23-5 (10-5) Record 22-6 (11-4)
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
Penn State 79-71
Illinois 71-58
Wins #7 Kansas 67-64
Texas Southern 69-41
Boise State 74-70
Oakland 70-52
Louisiana-Lafayette 63-60
Nicholls State 84-39
Arkansas-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
#4 Michigan 75-52
Nebraska 73-65
#15 Ohio State 56-53
#3 Indiana 73-81
Wisconsin 62-65 OT
#8 Michigan State 52-75
Penn State 78-84
Losses #23 Connecticut 62-66
Miami 59-67
#9 Minnesota 63-76
#7 Indiana 70-75
#1 Indiana 68-72
#18 Ohio State 60-68
76.0 Points Per Game 69.6
62.1 Scoring Defense 59.9
794-for-1,605 (49.5%) Field Goal % 698-for-1,492 (46.8%)
657-for-1,567 (41.9%) Def. Field Goal % 592-for-1,509 (39.2%)
221-for-562 (39.3%) 3-point % 140-for-404 (34.7%)
187-for-571 (32.7%) Def. 3-point % 157-for-494 (31.8%)
320-for-454 (70.5%) Free Throw % 413-for-581 (71.1%)
11.4 FT Made/Game 14.8
35.6 Rebounds Per Game 37.5
30.5 Opp. Reb. Per Game 30.5
14.8 Assists Per Game 13.6
9.7 Turnovers Per Game 13.5
5.8 Steals Per Game 8.3
2.6 Blocks Per Game 4.0
G – Trey Burke (18.8)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.2)
Leading Scorer G – Keith Appling (13.4)
G – Gary Harris (13.2)
F – Mitch McGary (5.6)
F – Glenn Robinson III (5.5)
Leading Rebounder F – Adreian Payne (7.3)
F – Derrick Nix (6.4)

Three weeks ago, the Michigan Wolverines travelled to East Lansing for what was supposed to be the biggest game in the history of this in-state rivalry. Both teams were in a battle for first place in the Big Ten, bragging rights were on the line, and the winner would certainly gain all the more traction when it comes to seeding for the Big Dance. Unfortunately, viewers tuning in from around the country in the hopes of a scintillating matchup were left wondering if they had watched the right game after Michigan State took Michigan to the woodshed, dominating the Wolverines in all facets of the game.

Since then, both teams have had their hiccups, however, with Michigan losing to Penn State last Wednesday and the Spartans coming off consecutive losses for the first time all season. If any game could be more important than that blowout in East Lansing, it’s today’s showdown (4pm on CBS) at the Crisler Center. The Big Ten title might be out of reach for both teams now, but seeding for both the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament are vastly important. Here are three keys for Michigan if they hope to bounce back:

  1. Mix it up on D: In the first tussle between these teams, Michigan State scored at will from anywhere on the floor, with Gary Harris pouring in five threes and the rest of the team combining to shoot nearly 55 percent from inside the arc. For Michigan, the defense has been lacking all season long, and it certainly has not improved recently, as Penn State put up a ridiculous 84 points on the Wolverines on Wednesday. Michigan State is going to try to bully around Michigan’s smaller lineup in the post again and will start both Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.
  2. To counter, watch for Michigan to throw a variety of looks at Tom Izzo’s squad in the hopes of causing some confusion and perhaps turning Michigan State over, which they are susceptible to at times. At this point, Michigan would be hard-pressed to play worse defense than their man-to-man outfit has been recently, and I expect to see some 1-3-1 and 2-3 zone series. Against Illinois, Michigan was decently successful playing a hyper-aggressive trapping man defense on certain possessions, forcing the Illini out to half court a number of times with double teams, so that is an option to throw out as well. In the post, the Wolverines would again be wise to double team Nix and Payne, particularly forcing Nix over his left shoulder, and rotate when the ball is passed out to the perimeter. Overall, Michigan simply needs to move their feet quickly, cut off the drive, and cover the open man. Easier said than done, but doable.
  1. Protect the Rock: Uncharacteristically for a John Beilein-coached team, Michigan has had some turnover issues of their own in recent losses, coughing the ball up a combined 31 times in the losses to MSU and PSU. Both teams feasted off the Wolverines’ sloppy play and were able to control the flow of the game throughout. Today, Michigan needs to run their offense and make smart decisions at all times. At times, it seems that Michigan is rushing everything too much, especially on the road, and needs to calm down. If a look isn’t there, give the ball to Trey Burke and set the offense back up. When the fast break is open, run, but when the Spartans are back on defense and playing physical, protect the ball, drive, kick to the open man, or draw a foul.
  1. Get Everyone Involved: Michigan is at its best when Trey Burke is not the only player who shows up, as evidenced by the first game in this series. Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been in a bit of a funk lately, and all of the freshmen have hit bumps in the road at one time or another. Burke can and will score his points, but if shots aren’t falling for the wings and the posts aren’t mixing it up inside, it could be a very long day again for the Maize and Blue. The freshmen are young, but they need to play composed in huge games like this if Michigan is going to make a run at any point in the postseason. Look for Burke to get it going early on but then drop some dimes to Hardaway and Stauskas from downtown and Robinson III over the top of the defense. If three or four Wolverines reach double digits, they should win the game. The good news for Michigan is that Michigan State is struggling with the same issue, as Keith Appling has gone ice cold lately and the surrounding cast has been inconsistent at best. The team with more double digit scorers today wins.

Prediction: Much like the first matchup between these rivals, I really don’t know which way this game will fall, and that could be a very bad indication today. For some reason though, I think Michigan will turn the bad publicity into positive energy and stay undefeated at home. Winning on the road is very difficult in the Big Ten, and both these teams are well aware of that this year. The Wolverines need to protect home court today if they want to stay in the mix for a top seed in both postseason tournaments, and I expect them to do that today. Burke leads the way with 20 and 10 assists while Mitch McGary bounces back in a big way on the glass and four Wolverines reach double figures in a 71-62 win.

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.