Caris LeVert , Derrick Walton and Nick Stauskas led a balanced Michigan effort to defeat the Michigan State Spartans 80-75.
The Wolverines (15-4, 7-0) held on to first place in the Big Ten (15-4, 7-0) by handing the Spartans (18-2, 7-1). their first conference loss.
Much of the Breslin Center crowd came to see the showdown between Spartan Gary Harris and Wolverine Nik Stauskas.
And they weren’t disappointed.
Harris, who played excellent defense on Stauskas much of the evening, was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points on nine of 15 shooting.
“We knew he (Stauskas) was going to have to pick his spots but he hit some daggers that were tough shots with Gary Harris) all over him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. ”It was a great matchup of two really good players and that was a pretty efficient game by Nik.”
Stauskas, despite a drought late in the first half, finished with 19 points, with five of six from behind the arc. “They got us from the 12-minute mark to the eight minute mark ,” said Coach John Beilein after the game. ”That was some really bad basketball Michigan played.”
Wolverine point guard Derrick Walton also scored 19 points, several coming from the free throw line down the stretch. “He’s always been a good foul shooter in high school,” Beilein said. ”For him to have to make those, point guards are going to have to make big foul shots at the end and he did.”
Walton was four of six from the field, with only one turnover.
Substitute point guard Spike Albrecht continued his solid floor play, also charged with a single turnover.
Caris LeVert, who also plays with endless energy, scored 17 points but most importantly grabbed eight rebounds.
MSU came into the key Big Ten contest without their top big men, 6-10, 245 lb. Adrien Payne, who’s pulls down 7.7 bounds to go along with 16.3 points per game. Payne, who’s helped spark the Spartan fast break, also heard the news of 6-6, 225 lb. Branden Dawson missing the game as well.
For the Spartans, 6’9, 240 lb, Matt Costello added some much needed muscle, grabbing nine rebounds along with nine points.
The victory for Michigan was its third straight over a top ten team. First it was No. 3 Wisconsin, then No. 10 Iowa and now Michigan State. Without debate, the win at Michigan State probably clinched a bid to the NCAA tournament. The losses to No. 18 Duke and No. 1 Arizona will help too.
“We’ve been through this with Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin; we’ve been in this a few times.” Beilein said. “Stanford, we just have got to get the ball in bounds and execute and get to the foul line and make it. I think there’s been a gradual effect of playing those types of games and we’ve gotten better and better at it. I don’t think today, despite the environment and the tremendous atmosphere, I think it was like, ‘OK, this is what we did in the last game, we can do it again.’
Big Ten Standings
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer