The instate rivalry between the Michigan State Spartans and the Michigan Wolverines tends to bring out the best in both teams, and it draws a star-studded crowd to check out the games. Inside the Breslin Center on Tuesday night, the likes of Nik Stauskas and Draymond Green were in attendance to cheer on their respective alma maters. Unfortunately for Stauskas, Green’s Michigan State Spartans were the only team to bring their best effort.
Michigan State found themselves in a murky situation just last week, but two wins over Northwestern and Ohio State has helped to clarify the situation, at least for the time being. On the flip side, the Michigan Wolverines are out of the NCAA Tournament conversation, having lost four straight contests prior to Tuesday night’s contest.
On this night, the rich got richer, and the poor got poorer. Michigan State jumped out to a double-digit lead at halftime, and never looked back, cruising to the 80 – 67 victory to complete the season sweep of the Wolverines.
The contest opened great for the Spartans, as they scored the game’s first four point and they held the Wolverines off the scoreboard for almost three minutes to start the game. Zak Irvin scored the first six points for the Wolverines before the first media timeout, while the Spartans saw four different scorers get on the board.
Out of the break, Michigan State would embark on a 13 – 2 run to push their lead o 21 – 8 with 10:35 left to play. Travis Trice connected on three three-pointers during the run.
Michigan State would continue their dominant play as the half progressed along, using two Branden Dawson buckets in the paint to push their lead to their largest of the game, at 19 points. Michigan would do their best to stay within striking distance, using baskets from Ricky Doyle and Aubrey Dawkins in the paint to keep the first half respectable.
At the end of the first 20 minutes of action, the visiting Michigan State Spartans held a comfortable 38 – 23 lead over the Wolverines.
Michigan opened the second half with a sense of urgency. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman scored eight straight points for the maize and blue to trim the deficit to 11, less than three minutes into the half. Michigan would get to within 11 on several occasions, and even down to 10, but Michigan State always had an answer and would maintain their double-digit lead.
Branden Dawson and Gavin Schilling would flex their muscle in the paint in the middle of the half, capitalizing on the weaker forwards of the Wolverines to push their lead back up to 14 points, at 59 – 45 with 10:03 remaining in the contest.
Matt Costello would sub in for the Spartans, and he proceeded to score four straight points of his own to push the lead back to 17.
Down the stretch, Michigan would keep fighting, but they could never get to within single digits of the Michigan State Spartans on this night. Tom Izzo and the Spartans led from start to finish, and the outcome of the game was never in doubt.
When the final buzzer went off, the Spartans emerged with an 80 – 67 victory over the Wolverines, completing the season series sweep.
For the visiting Michigan State Spartans, seniors Branden Dawson and Travis Trice led the way for the green and white on this night. Dawson scored a game-high 23 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 4 assists in the win. Travis Trice saw 28 minutes of action off the bench, and added in 22 points and 7 assists of his own to help lead the Spartans to victory.
For the second straight game, freshman guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, Jr started in place of Trice. Nairn only attempted one shot in the contest, which was a three-pointer he connected on, recording 3 points and 3 assists in the game. In 33 minutes of floor time, Nairn only recorded two turnovers. He is slowly becoming a trusted guard in the back court, and Izzo is rewarding him with more playing time as a result of his development with the program. Spartan fans should be excited about the future with Nairn and sophomore forward Gavin Schilling (5-of-5 from the field, 10 points) in the mix.
One area that has been a big concern for the Spartans this season is their free throw shooting. They entered the game with a team average of 62.2% from the charity stripe, which is one of the worst numbers in the NCAA. On Tuesday, they went 12-of-17 (70.6%) from the line. If they can have similar performances from the line the rest of the way this season, the Spartans can be a scary team to play.
As for the hometown Michigan Wolverines, a balanced scoring attack amongst their starters wasn’t enough to put an end to their losing streak. Guard Zak Irvin led the way, scoring a team-high 16 points to go along with 3 rebounds in the loss.
Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman all recorded 12 points each, but it was not enough to lead the team to victory. Without having the likes of Derrick Walton, Jr and Caris LeVert in the lineup, the Wolverines do not have a legitimate number one scoring threat who is able to take games over and lead them to victory.
The win was the third straight, and fifth in six games, for the suddenly surging Michigan State Spartans (18 – 8, 9 – 4). They now find themselves in a tie for second place in the conference with the Maryland Terrapins and the Purdue Boilermakers. The road to the Big Ten tournament isn’t an easy one for the Spartans, as three of their last five games are on the road. They will look to keep their winning ways going on Sunday when they take on the Illinois Fighting Illini in Champaign, IL.
The loss was the fifth straight, and sixth in the last seven games, for the struggling Michigan Wolverines (13 – 13, 6 – 8). As mentioned earlier, the Wolverines’ chances of an NCAA Tournament berth are all but over, unless they can somehow pull it together and win the Big Ten tournament. They will look to assume the role of spoiler over their next four contests in the regular season, starting with a home date against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon.