|#4 Michigan (24-5, 11-5)||28||30||58|
|#9 Michigan State (22-7, 11-5)||31||26||57|
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.
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|
|01||Glenn Robinson III*||4-6||0-0||0-0||2||1||3||2||8||0||0||0||0||31|
|10||Tim Hardaway Jr.*||3-12||0-3||0-0||0||7||7||3||6||2||3||0||0||38|