EAST LANSING — So… Did anyone see this coming?
A game that was looked at as one of the best matchups during college basketball’s Rivalry Week quickly turned into a lopsided beatdown.
The Breslin Center was crowded with a sea of white, as the requested white-out was in full effect, but ironically enough, the Spartans may have caused the Wolverines to have a black-out kind of night.
Gary Harris scored 17 points and Derrick Nix had 14 points and five rebounds to help lead the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans to a 75-52 smackdown over the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines.
Harris, a freshman from Fishers, Ind., went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc and added four rebounds, three assists and three steals to go with his 17 points.
The Spartans (21-4, 10-2) now have sole possession of first-place in the Big Ten, and MSU has beaten the Wolverines (21-4, 8-4) the last two meetings.
The Wolverines have continued to struggle on the road against top-tier Big Ten competition as they’ve lost their last four road games against four of the Big Ten’s top-5 teams. Michigan had a season-high 16 turnovers and they were out-muscled on the glass 40-28.
Michigan State led by as much as 31 points as the Spartans put together one of their better offensive performances this year with four players in double-digits. One of those players was junior Keith Appling who scored 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.
While Appling’s shooting percentage was about as bad as the Spartan’s margin of victory, he had his focus on stopping the potential player of the year, Trey Burke. The MSU point guard may have one the war, but the Wolverine’s sophomore won the battle, as Burke went 7-of-11 from the field for 18 points and four assists.
However, even though Burke still got his, MSU did a good job as a unit on containing Michigan’s role players.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was held to only two points on 1-of-11 shooting, and Glen Robinson III mimicked his point production but went 1-of-4 from the field.
Michigan State’s Branden Dawson added two steals to go along with his 10 points and was very active in the passing lanes on the defensive end of the floor. Gary Harris had three steals to complete his near-perfect game.
While Harris stole the show, he wasn’t the only Michigan State freshman that made a solid contribution to the victory over the in-state rivals. Freshmen Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello gave Tom Izzo very solid minutes off the bench, something that the Spartans have been lacking for a good part of Big Ten season. Valentine grabbed seven of his nine rebounds in the first half and finished the game with seven points. Costello hauled in six rebounds to go along with his career-high eight points (3-for-3) in 11 minutes.
The bench production wasn’t the determining factor in the Spartans win over the Wolverines but it definitely contributed immensely to the fashion in which Michigan State grabbed the victory.
Tonight was the first time these two teams have met while both being ranked in the top-10, and while Michigan is currently ranked No. 4 in the nation, the Spartans made it very clear that the Wolverines are still No. 2 in the State of Michigan.