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Freshmen face-off


Comparing highly-touted freshmen in rivalry game




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Freshman guard Gary Harris defends Michigan guard Trey Burke on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at Breslin Center. Justin Wan/The State News



The talk began months ago, back when the ink dried on their letters of intent.

The greatest University of Michigan freshman class since the Fab Five.

A top-five preseason ranking.

The incoming class made of guard Nik Stauskas and forwards Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary were going to return the U-M men’s basketball program to glory, erasing the sour taste of a first round upset in last season’s NCAA Tournament.

Meanwhile, about 70-miles north, another top-10 recruiting class sat quietly, confidently — waiting for the chance to prove themselves.

That chance came Tuesday in a nationally-televised rivalry game, where the Spartans and Wolverines squared off as a pair of top-10 teams for the first time.

The result was each of MSU’s freshmen producing one of their best performances of the season, helping the No. 8 MSU men’s basketball team (21-4 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) steamroll U-M (21-4, 8-4), 75-52, before a capacity crowd at Breslin Center.

The win sent a statement, not just about this year’s Big Ten, but about the future of the two programs.

MSU’s Matt Costello vs. U-M’s Mitch McGary

McGary struggled to adjust to the physical presence of MSU’s frontline in his first career start, but the pace of the game fueled Costello. MSU’s freshman forward scored a career-high eight points, with six rebounds and a pair of critical baskets before the end of the first half to help the Spartans maintain their double-digit lead.

“I was getting more comfortable as I was getting out there, so as you get more comfortable you start to make more plays and things start working out better for you. I just tried to do my job and see what happened.” — freshman forward Matt Costello

MSU’s Gary Harris vs. U-M’s Nik Stauskas

Both team’s sharpshooters were efficient Tuesday night, but Harris nabbed the edge. The Spartan guard led MSU in scoring with 17points and five 3-pointers, while Stauskas was one of two Wolverines to score in double figures, netting 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting.

“We’re roommates, we’re suitemates and we’re just always together, so I love to see them do well.” — freshman guard Gary Harris on MSU’s freshman class

MSU’s Denzel Valentine vs. U-M’s Glenn Robinson III

Valentine can have more ups and downs than a high-flying roller coaster, but it’s been more highs than lows for the Spartan guard in recent weeks. Valentine turned in another solid performance with seven points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Robinson continues to battle through a slump, finishing with only two points on 1-for-4 shooting.

“Their freshmen play hard, but we can do some things too — me, Gary and Matt. We work hard. And all the attention that they get, hats off to them, but I think we play good, too.” — freshman guard Denzel Valentine


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