ANN ARBOR — Despite 17 points and 12 rebounds from Adreian Payne, the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans (22-7, 11-5) fell on the road to their in-state rival Michigan 58-57.
After two free throws by Michigan’s Trey Burke, the No. 4 Wolverines (24-5, 11-5) led Michigan State 52-42 with 4:36 left, and it looked as if Michigan was going to keep their 16-game home winning streak alive.
Payne answered the Burke free throw’s with four straight Spartan points to cut the lead to 52-49 with 3:07 remaining. A Burke basket and free throws by freshman Mitch McGary put the Wolverines up seven with under three minutes to play. The Spartans saw the Wolverines McGary and raised them a Gary Harris as the freshman scored five of his 16 points in a span of 40 seconds to cut the score to 56-54.
The momentum quickly shifted in Michigan State’s favor when junior Keith Appling nailed two free throws with 54 seconds left to even the score at 56. On the next possession, Appling forced a turnover on McGary on the baseline giving Michigan State the ball with a chance to win or go into overtime.
Appling dribbled the ball to his left towards head coach Tom Izzo who told him to take the ball to the right hash so that the Spartans could set up an out-of-bounds play. As Appling turned to go to the right Burke picked his pocket and finished with a dunk on the other end, giving U of M a 58-56 lead. The Spartans called a timeout.
From there, Izzo designed a play that turned into a foul on Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. which sent Derrick Nix to the free throw line with about eight seconds left to play. Nix missed the first but made the second, and MSU trailed 58-57. The Spartans immediately fouled McGary — a 44 percent free throw shooter. McGary missed the first shot of a one and one. Payne grabbed the rebound and began dribbling to half court before Izzo called a timeout with about four seconds left to play.
Many would have thought that Izzo would allow his team to try to win the game in transition, but he didn’t feel comfortable with the ball in Payne’s hands that far away from the basket, so he called a timeout.
“He was almost turning it over that’s why I called it,” Izzo said. “I was going to let it go but when he took two dribble and three guys were on him, and we had 18 turnovers, no, definitely no. If it was in Appling’s hands I was going to do that, but not in Payne’s hands.”
Out of the timeout, Izzo drew up a play that had his point guard Appling taking the ball out — something that Appling said was “rare,” and he inbounded the ball to Harris. He took a couple of dribbles and tried to find Appling in the corner but the ball was stolen and the game was over.
Izzo took the blame for the way the play turned out.
“We were looking to get Gary a shot at the top of the key or Keith getting in, and we didn’t run it right,” Izzo said. “We had a couple freshmen in there and we struggled with it. That’s my fault.”
Appling, who was the passer on the final play, thought he was open and would have got a good look at the rim if Harris were able to get him the ball after he stepped back into play.
“I was (open), but the guy that was defending me was kind of playing both (Appling and Harris),” Appling said. “So I was, but I wasn’t, if you can understand what that means. I feel like if I would have been able to get the ball I would have been able to knock that shot down.”
Burke was the recipient of the Harris pass, not Appling, and it was him that caused the Spartans 18th turnover of the game. Burke finished the game with 21 points and eight assists and had control of the Michigan offense and the Spartan defense all night.
The Wolverine’s also got a huge boost from freshman Caris LeVert — who played major minutes once freshman guard Nik Stauskas left the game after an elbow from Branden Dawson — and added eight points.
“LeVert did a great job,” Izzo said. “I thought he was more aggressive, usually he’s just a shooter, he was more aggressive with the ball.”
Aside from Harris and Payne, the Spartans struggled to get offense from anyone else on the floor.
Appling went 3-for-9 for nine points, Trice knocked down two 3-pointers in the first half — and didn’t play a minute in the second — and Nix had seven points to go with his career-high six turnovers.
Luckily for the Spartans, the Wolverines went 0-for-12 from beyond the arc, but Michigan — a jump shooting team — still found a way to come out on top. Maybe it had to do with the fact that 44 of the Wolverines 58 points came in the paint.
“If your dunking it why should you shoot any shots?” Izzo said about Michigan’s 3-point shooting woes.
Michigan State basketball has now lost three games in a row, and are making it harder on themselves to grab a top-2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Payne talked about his disapproval of the Spartans loss tonight, and touched on the three-game losing skid that Michigan State is currently facing.
“It was our game to win from the beginning,” Payne said. “We shouldn’t have lost these games. We shouldn’t have lost any of them.”