Michigan State defeated Michigan 83-67 in a performance that saw the Spartans feed off an electric atmosphere to play some of their best basketball of the season.
Freshman guard Max Christie (16 points), junior forward Malik Hall (15 points) and redshirt senior forward Joey Hauser (14 points) proved to be the difference makers in a game that saw seven lead changes in the first and none in the first half as the Spartans overwhelmed a Wolverines team struggling with mistakes of their own.
Michigan out-rebounded Michigan State 36-32, but a slew of ill-timed turnovers from the Wolverines and only 6 points from their bench stunted their overall attack. The Spartans also managed one of their most successful nights on the fast-break in some time, with 24 points coining on the run.
After senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. took the tip, the battle between him and sophomore center Hunter Dickinson in the post had an immediate impact as both teams worked from the get-go to get the ball to their big men. Bingham knotted the score at 2 early with a long hook and Dickinson immediately followed up with a shot in the paint to give the Wolverines the lead once again.
Through their interior presence, Michigan found their footing and the initial lead by alternating Dickinson (14 points in the first) and freshman forward Moussa Diabate (9 points in the first) good looks in the post to much success while Michigan State’s bigs struggled to stop one of the more skilled 4-5 tandems in the league.
And when Hauser fouled freshman forward Caleb Houstan to the tune of two made free throws, Michigan took their largest lead and the lion’s share of the momentum with the score at 14-8. In response, the raucous Breslin crowd merely simmered in its displeasure for the first time all afternoon.
That momentum for the Wolverines ceased when Christie nailed a three to make it 14-11 and the home fans exploded once again.
Coming off his worst game as a Spartan, few had a bigger first half than Christie. The freshman guard dropped 14 points on a highly-efficient shooting (5-8 from the field, 3-4 from three), sinking one triple with a foul from sophomore forward Terrence Williams II to tie that swung the game as much as any play in the early going.
Meanwhile, even as the Wolverines managed to outwork Michigan State on the glass and in the paint, they only made one three (1-8 from deep) in the first half, the lone make coming from Brooks with around four minutes left to give Michigan the 30-28 lead. Further, Michigan struggled to get any offensive production from their bench in the opening period, getting zero points from the pine while Michigan State got 16.
Few exposed those two deficits more than Hall after he nailed a triple immediately after Michigan graduate student guard Eli Brooks’ attempt. 11 of Michigan State’s bench points came off a red-hot eight point run Hall kicked off with his three, a stretch that gave the Spartans the lead for good.
Not that it was smooth skating for the Spartans. The Wolverines slimmed the margin to one after junior guard Tyson Walker committed his third turnover (Michigan State’s ninth of the half) on an errant pass that went right to Jones — who went coast to coast for a finish at the rim and foul shot. Izzo wrapped his hands around his head after seeing the giveaway that capped off a deflating two-plus minute stretch in which the Spartans failed to score.
However, Walker stayed the course and nailed a three with less than 30 seconds left to extend Michigan State’s 39-35 lead. Dickinson missed the Wolverine’s last shot of the half and Michigan State held on to take the advantage into the half.
Michigan State only kept their foot on the gas in the second half as they opened on a 10-2 run with a welcome couple of baskets from sophomore guard A.J Hoggard. Unusually, the Spartans were in the rare position of playing a team that was struggling with turnovers in the second half as much as they have in the past-and they didn’t fail to take advantage.
The most notable example? Dickinson’s second turnover of the half — the fourth Michigan giveaway in a four minute stretch-resulting in a breakaway dunk from senior forward Gabe Brown to make it 53-38.
Michigan State also limited the Wolverine’s attempts in the paint. The turnovers, struggles on offense and a badgering Spartan offensive attack threatened to push the Wolverines' deficit to as much as 20 with the clock ticking down.
A couple shots could be considered as the dagger for Michigan but Hauser’s wide open three to make it 72-53 with five minutes left seemed like the right answer. The Wolverines chopped away as best as they could but the Spartans slotted their benchwarmers in and ran out the clock for a 83-67 finish to cap off a return to form for the home team.
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