To predict at the beginning of the basketball season that Michigan would stroll into The Breslin Center and defensively keep the Michigan State Basketball team out of sync for the majority of 40 minutes, I would laugh. However, that’s exactly what happened in East Lansing Saturday afternoon as the Wolverines knocked off No 4. Michigan State 82-72.
“We just did not do the things we needed to do,” said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. “This will hurt for a day or two because it is a big game for me.”
Four Michigan players finished in double figures and the Wolverines scored 26 points on 18 MSU turnovers in route to their second straight victory over their in-state rival.
“Some of those turnovers they earned and some of them we deserved,” said Izzo.
Moe Wagner no doubt played his best game of the season finishing with 27 points on 8-13 shooting from the field. Zavier Simpson added 16, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored 14, and Charles Matthews tallied 10 points.
“It is really good to get a win like that over a tremendous team,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We embrace the win because we were able to get a victory over an outstanding team.”
The Spartans held Michigan to just 36 percent from the field and while shooting 56 percent themselves. However, Michigan State held a slim three-point halftime lead, going into the break up 37-34.
Michigan had led for over 11 of the first 20 minutes, and responded every time the Spartans looked to go on a run. Four different times in the first half did the Wolverines re-take the lead on the ensuing possession after Michigan State had tied the game.
Moe Wagner played a huge part in keeping the Wolverines at pace or on top of the Spartans. While ailing an ankle injury, Wagner was as active as he has ever been this season and used his “in-out” game very effectively. He finished the first half leading all scorers with 13 points going 4-7 from the field and 2-2 from behind the arc.
Wagner was just as affective if not better in the second half. He finished with a game-high — points and had an answer after every big Michigan State basket.
“He really did a great job today,” said Beilein. “Other than one turnover he was basic and played like we saw him last February and March.”
“He gave us some problems,” said Izzo. “He was the difference in the game.”
The Spartans also did not help their own cause, turning the ball over eight times leading to 17 points for the Wolverines.
Michigan State fought from behind throughout the first half, before a 9-2 run with 4:30 remaining, gave them the lead going into the break.
The Spartans took advantage of the size discrepancy in the matchup, and pounded the paint. Ward and Jaren Jackson Jr. were given a touch almost every possession as the Spartans targeted Wagner and Duncan Robinson, forcing them to defend or foul. 22 of MSU’s 37 first half points came on two-pointers and 20 of them came inside the paint. Jackson Jr. finished with a team high 19 points while also adding three rebounds and six blocks.
Cassius Winston and Miles Bridges led the Spartans with nine points apiece at the break. Winston was the catalyst in getting MSU a lead late in the first half. In the final 20 minutes, he was blanked until two late free-throws in the final minute. Winston finished with just two assists while also turning the ball over three times.
“Let’s face it our point guards struggled,” said Izzo.
Bridges matched Jackson Jr’s total with 19 points while also grabbing six rebounds and tallying five assists.
One of the biggest stretches in the game came right out of the game in the second half. After an opening two free-throws by Jackson Jr to stretch Michigan State’s lead to five, the Spartans got sloppy and out of sync. Michigan responded by going on an 8-0 run and re-taking the lead up 42-39 with 16 minutes left. The Spartans led for a total of :38 seconds the rest of the way.
It was with six minutes remaining where it looked like that Michigan was going to hold on. Leading by two at 59-57, the Wolverines went on a 6-0 run over the next minute to stretch their lead to its highest margin at 65-57. Michigan’s lead reached double-digits for the first time with just over a minute left and got as low as eight points the rest of the way.
Michigan State finished 47 percent (21 of 45) from the field and 25 percent (3 of 12) from behind the arc. The Wolverines finished 42 percent (24 of 57) from the field and 40 percent (6 of 15) from behind the arc.
With the loss the Spartans fall to 3-2 in Big Ten play and will be back at home Friday Jan 19 to host Indiana.