Michigan State showed why it’s not ready to relinquish its stranglehold on in-state basketball Saturday by soundly defeating Michigan, 69-55, to win the Big Ten tourney title.
The impressive win gave the No. 22 Spartans the confidence needed to make a long run in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The loss ended No. 8 Michigan’s hopes of a number one seed, but shouldn’t keep the Wolverines down for long.
Michigan exhibited its resilience all season long, recovering from the early departure of Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Trey Burke to the NBA. U-M also lost Mitch McGary to back surgery early in the season.
Michigan a No. 2 seed
The Wolverines, who “dropped” to a No. 2 seed with the loss, will play their NCAA Midwest Region opener Thursday against No. 15 Wofford in Milwaukee.
The No. 4 seed Spartans play No. 13 Delaware in an East Region game Thursday in Spokane.
The Wolverines had a difficult time coping with the strength of Michigan State’s inside game from the opening moments. Before the game was two minutes old, 6-8 F/C Jordan Morgan had one foul and 6-10 F/C John Horford had two.
Michigan coach John Beilein, tried to buy some time by using fourth-string F/C Max Bielfeldt for extended minutes, but it was to no avail.
Just as Michigan State (26-8) suffered with injuries earlier in the season, Michigan (25-8) could have used the presence of McGary down low. In fact, Bielfeldt was forced to play 12 of the first 20 minutes.
McGary hinted that he might be back in the lineup if the Wolverines make a decent run in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
McGary could play
“Let’s get back to Dallas [site of the Final Four] and we’ll see,”McGary said after Saturday’s Big Ten semifinal. “You never know what will happen.” McGary averaged 14.3 points and 10.8 rebounds in Michigan’s run all the way to the NCAA championship game before losing to Louisville.
The Spartans, who lost both earlier contests against Michigan during the regular season, took advantage of Michigan’s size problems to grab nine offensive rebounds and a 38-29 halftime lead.
No Michigan comeback
Tom Izzo’s squad extended the lead to 48-31 with some highlight-film dunks and layups. On the other end, Michigan was having a terrible shooting afternoon. The one-step-quicker Spartan defense was keeping the Wolverines totally out of sink. Even with all the negatives, Michigan trailed by only 12, 52-40 with 9:20 left.
But the Wolverines never were able to manage a comeback.
Statistics don’t always tell the story, but Michigan made just 17 of 54 shots from outside (31.5 percent) and 6 of 23 from behind the arc.
Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas had a particularly tough afternoon, hitting just 4 of 14 from the floor in a deceiving 17 point effort.
Payne finished with 18 points and nine rebounds while Gary Harris and Branden Dawson had 15 apiece for the Spartans.♦
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer