Breslin Beat Down
Spartans demolish No. 4 Wolverines, 75-52, regain top spot in Big Ten Conference
Senior center Derrick Nix tries to work his way into the baseline with U-M forward Mitch McGary in defense during the first half of the game against Michigan on Tuesday at Breslin Center.
Thirteen seconds. That’s all it took.
That’s how quickly MSU scored to take the lead.
And once they had it, there was no way they were giving it back.
The first-ever top-10 matchup on the hardwood between the Spartans and Wolverines was a different event.
Head coach Tom Izzo embraces junior guard Keith Appling during the first half of the game aganist Michigan Tuesday at Breslin Center. Justin Wan/The State News
Junior guard Keith Appling makes a field goal attempt in the second half of the game against Michigan, Tuesday at Breslin Center. Justin Wan/The State News
It had to be.
A swiped pass, taken the distance for a two-handed jam by sophomore guard/forward Branden Dawson, was followed by a tilted head and a howl.
An MSU score inside led center Derrick Nix to turn to his teammates and emphatically yell not once, but twice, “let’s go!”
The Spartan bench stood and cheered for minutes on end, until finally being asked to sit.
It wasn’t just another game. It couldn’t have been.
And by the time it was over, the No. 8 MSU men’s basketball team (21-4 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) had gotten a signature win in resounding fashion, dominating their archrival, No. 4 Michigan (21-4, 8-4), 75-52, on Tuesday night.
It was MSU’s most lopsided win over its rival in more than a decade and prompted MSU head coach Tom Izzo to say it’s the best game his program has played in three years.
“It was a big step for us, but don’t think that’s the real Michigan team because it’s not,” Izzo said. “This team could be good because we’ve got an inside, we’ve got an outside. We probably played as good of a game as we can play.”
Freshman guard Gary Harris led four Spartan scorers in double figures with 17 points, including five 3-pointers, while senior center Derrick Nix added 14 points.
MSU regained sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with the win, while U-M now trails the Spartans by two games after losing three of their past four.
A neck-and-neck opening 10 minutes saw both teams trade early jabs, with MSU always finding a way to land just one more than the Wolverines.
When U-M guard Trey Burke hit a 3-pointer, Dawson followed with a layup and Harris quickly added a three of his own.
It was that kind of night for the Wolverines.
“That was the worst we’ve played in a long, long time and credit Michigan State for that,” U-M head coach John Beilein said. “There wasn’t any turning back after they made that spurt in the second half.
The initial spurt began midway through the first half, when U-M stopped punching and MSU went in for the kill.
An 11-2 run, capped off by a layup from Nix, gave the Spartans their first double-digit lead 31-17 with 4:57 to go in the first half.
A couple of buckets from freshman forward Matt Costello helped MSU maintain its margin, heading into halftime with a 38-24 lead.
A key for the Spartans, along with committing only eight turnovers, was the team’s lockdown defense on U-M guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III.
The duo combined four points, with Hardaway shooting just 1-for-11.
“Those guys are tremendous scorers and that was the emphasis going into the game,” junior guard Keith Appling said. “We wanted to stop those guys or slow them down a little bit. It worked out for us tonight.”
The Spartans exploded out of the locker room, using another 11-2 run, this time catapulting their lead to 21 points, after freshman guard Denzel Valentine found Nix inside for a layup, putting MSU in front 52-31, with 14:12 to go.
From there the rout was on, as MSU rattled off a 13-3 run to move ahead 70-39 with 5:59 to play, putting the Wolverines away.
The only thing dampening the celebration for the Spartans was an injury to Dawson, who left the game and did not return after being inadvertently hit in the face.
Izzo said Dawson cut his lip and hurt his nose, but he didn’t believe there was a concussion, adding “I do think he’s going to be OK.”
“I’m very proud of my team and my staff,” Izzo said. “It was like the perfect storm. I’m not sure we’re as good as we played, but I’ll take it. A big win for Michigan State.”
To read a column about MSU’s win, click here