Michigan State coach Tom Izzo pretty much summed up Sunday’s game against Michigan in just a few words. He said that they got beat by the better team today and that he wasn’t very pleased with the effort. As a result, the Wolverines went on to sweep the regular season series, winning 79-70.
Michigan got off to another slow start in the first half, but came on strong to pull away from the Spartans late in the second. MSU shot 54 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep, but still came up short.
MSU led by as many as 11 in the first half, but held only a two-point advantage at half. Michigan out-scored the Spartans by 11 in the second to give them the victory.
Nik Stauskas has been relatively quiet in recent weeks after being named a Wooden Watch Finalist. He proved he is worthy of that today, as he scored a game-high 25 points and added five assists. The Canadian hit three of his five attempted threes and hit a number of tough shots over MSU defenders. He finishied 9-for-13 from the field. There wasn’t much the Spartans could do defensively to stop him. He was simply on fire and it was fun to watch.
Caris LeVert turned in another outstanding performance, carrying the Michigan squad for much of the first half. He scored 23 points and dished out three assists. LeVert also hit three threes and played a solid all-around game. His buzzer-beating three at the end of the first half highlighted his performance. He launched the shot, turned and ran toward the locker room before it hit nothing but net. The shot gave Michigan some much-needed momentum at halftime.
LeVert talked after the game about the atmosphere at Crisler on Sunday. He said it was definitely one of the loudest games he’s been a part of at home. I’ve never heard the place any louder than it was, that’s for sure.
MSU returned Adreian Payne for the first time against Michigan this season, but he scored a quiet 12 points. The duo of Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford abused Payne, whom Izzo admitted is nowhere near 100 percent. Payne went 4-for-10 from the stripe, as well.
In the first half, Denzel Valentine couldn’t miss, as he scored 11 of his 13 points, including three threes. Gary Harris managed to score a team-high 21 points, but didn’t have a great shooting day. He hit just four of his 13 attempted threes. Harris guarded Stauskas for the majority of the game, but eventually switched off as Keith Appling handled Stauskas for a portion of the second half.
Perhaps the difference in the game was turnovers and points off of turnovers. Michigan turned the ball over a season-low three times, compared to 13 for MSU. Michigan scored 14 points off of those miscues, including a few highlight-reel breakaway dunks.
With just over two minutes to go, a spectacular alley-oop from Stauskas to Glenn Robinson III pretty much sealed the deal. GRIII appeared to float in the air before slamming the ball home, sending the Maize Rage into an absolute frenzy. Robinson turned in a pretty solid game as well, scoring 15 points, although he missed four of seven from the free throw line.
Sunday’s win makes it six of the last eight for Michigan in the rivalry and it also puts the Wolverines in the driver’s seat for the Big Ten regular season title. With a favorable schedule remaining, it is easy to bet on Michigan to claim it within the next couple of weeks.
The Wolverines will travel to Purdue on Wednesday, and then host Minnesota on Saturday. They will finish the season with games at Illinois and then home against Indiana.
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