Ann Arbor — The ball was in Trey Burke’s hands as he drove to the rim for an uncontested and unexpected final minute dunk.
The Crisler Center crowd erupted once again, as it had for most of the second half, and for both the Spartans and Wolverines, a classic line from the film “The Wizard of Oz” gained some modern truth.
“There’s no place like home.”
Just days after the Wolverines were upset on the road at Penn State and a mere three weeks after the Spartans trounced their in-state rivals in East Lansing, the two teams met once again looking far different than they had before.
After being dominated in the first ever top-10 meeting of the two programs, the No. 4 Wolverines (24-5 overall, 11-5 Big Ten) got the last laugh in the second, knocking off the No. 9 MSU men’s basketball team (22-7, 11-5), 58-57, in a classic, last-second finish.
Burke led the way for the Wolverines with a game-high 21 points and eight assists.
The loss is MSU’s third in a row and all but eliminates them from contention for the regular season conference title.
“This is going to be a tough one to get over,” said senior center Derrick Nix. “We’ve just got to move on at this point. I’m kind of hurt because I wanted to win a Big Ten championship (in the) regular season. And it’s hurtful to know that we won’t win it probably. I don’t see anybody losing twice.”
A close first half saw MSU lead most of the way, but rarely by more than one possession, with the lead never growing larger than seven points.
Junior center Adreian Payne powered the Spartans early, scoring eight of the team’s first 10 points, as MSU jumped out to an early lead.
Payne finished with a team-high 17 points and 12 rebounds, while freshman guard Gary Harris added 16 points.
The Spartans shot a woeful 21-for-59 (35.6 percent) and outside of Payne and Harris, the rest of the team combined to shoot 8-for-32 (25 percent).
“As a team we’re not playing that good right now,” Payne said. “We’re going through ups and downs where we’re playing great or we’re not playing as well. We’ve got to pull it together.”
One of the downward spurts was a run of turnovers in the opening nine minutes that helped keep U-M in the game, as the Wolverines turned five MSU giveaways into six quick, easy points.
MSU finished with 18 turnovers, compared to a mere seven for the Wolverines.
Yet despite the turnovers and foul trouble for junior guard Keith Appling, the Spartans found a way to head into the locker room at halftime with the lead, 31-28.
But once the second half got underway, the game started to get officiated much more closely, leading MSU to pick up four fouls in the first four and a half minutes, including three for Harris.
In a matter of minutes, Payne and Appling joined Harris with three fouls apiece, putting the Wolverines on the brink of the bonus as MSU began to lose its cool.
While MSU was picking up fouls, U-M was scoring, including opening the second half on a 10-2 run that gave the Wolverines a 38-33 lead with 12:47 to go.
It was U-M’s largest lead to that point and the Wolverines would never trail from that point forward.
“I didn’t think we handled that very well at all,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo said of the run of fouls. “That’s where I think the game got away from us a little bit. You always look at the end or the beginning, but I really felt that was a key moment, those first five minutes of the second half. And even though the game was close, I think they got some confidence in that period.”
MSU was able to pull within three points after Appling drove inside for a layup midway through the first half, but a 10-3 U-M run, highlighted by a one-handed alley-oop dunk by guard Glenn Robinson III, gave the Wolverines their first double-digit lead, 52-42 with 4:36 remaining.
But the Spartans had one more rally in them, mounting a 7-0 run to tie the game at 56 with 54.8 second to go.
After a turnover from forward Mitch McGary, MSU took over possession with a chance to take the final shot, possibly nabbing the victory with a make or at worst head to overtime.
Yet while Appling dribbled, attempting to work the clock down, Burke picked his pocket and took the ball the distance for a fast break two-handed dunk, giving the Wolverines a two-point lead, leaving Appling “shocked.”
On the ensuing possession, freshman guard Denzel Valentine found Derrick Nix inside, drawing a foul and sending the senior center to the line.
Nix missed the first and hit the second, leading the Spartans to foul McGary on the Wolverines’ next possession.
The freshman was unable to hit the front end of a one-and-one free throw, giving MSU the ball back with 4.9 seconds left, down by one and the chance to stun the home crowd.
But on the final play it was Harris, the Spartans’ star freshman, that was unable to come through, turning the ball over with less than a second to go, sealing victory for the Wolverines.
U-M won despite being outrebounded 44-29, losing guard Nik Stauskas to injury in the game’s opening minutes, along with failing to connect on a single 3-pointer for the first time since February 1999.
Yet for the Spartans and their head coach, the end result is all that matters.“We did some real good things, but unfortunately good isn’t good enough in this league,” Izzo said. “And good isn’t even close to good enough when you’re on the road so we’re going to have to lick our wounds. They earned a victory and we’re going to have to regroup.”