EAST LANSING, MICHIGAN -- Michigan and Michigan State met just two weeks ago, but on Saturday the stakes were different. The Wolverines and Spartans were playing for a share of the Big Ten title, and MSU came out on top again, this time winning 75-63 at the rowdy Breslin Center.
The victory means the Spartans will share the Big Ten regular-season title with Purdue, but Michigan State will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.
No. 7 Michigan jumped all over the No. 9 Spartans early, and took a six-point lead into the half. But a lack of scorers outside of Ignas Brazdeikis -- who fouled out with over five minutes left in the game -- ended up sinking the Wolverines.
"Give Michigan credit, they came out and put it right to us," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We looked out of sync -- I don't know if we were nervous, I don't know what we were. We had a great couple of days of practice. They played well and I thought we played poorly. I didn't think our energy was there, I think we made mistakes -- talked about turnovers they had a 12-5 edge at halftime -- I think what won the game for us is only being down six at halftime because it could've been 16."
Foul trouble for Brazdeikis and Isaiah Livers had an effect on Michigan's substitution rotations, according to Michigan coach John Beilein.
"We wanted to give guys rest," Beilein said. "But it got a little messed up, like [Jordan Poole] didn't get a rest in the first half. And he needed that, he was doing a great job on [Matt] McQuaid ... But he needed a rest ... As soon as we took him out, [Brazdeikis] and Isaiah [Livers] got another foul."
Indeed, Poole played all 20 minutes in the first half and shot 4 of 9 from the field (including 2 of 5 from 3-point range), but in the second half he shot just 2 of 6 in 18 more minutes.
While things went south for Michigan after a good start, they started out choppy for Michigan State, with missed free throws and turnovers plaguing the Spartans early on. However, once Cassius Winston caught fire in the second half, there was no going back. Winston finished the game with 23 points and seven assists after a poor first half.
On the other end of the guard battle, Michigan's Zavier Simpson tried time and time again to create, but he found himself stuffed at the rim multiple times by Xavier Tillman, who had five blocks in addition to 17 points.
"Blocked shots were a huge part of this game," Michigan head coach John Beilein said after the game. "We did some things differently this time to get to the rim. I think all eight -- maybe seven of those -- were layups at the rim that they came from behind and made really big plays. That was a big part of it."
When Michigan went down double digits late in the second half, it was unable to outmuscle Michigan State on the glass, with the Spartans outrebounding the Wolverines 46-20.
"That wasn't good," Beilein said of the rebounding. "Some of those rebounds if [Jon] Teske and Tillman are going for the ball, Tillman is gonna get it. There were some of those that were way way out there. But there were a couple of really -- like [Matt] McQuaid comes in and gets a rebound. I think there was a -- what we call a strong man rebound they didn't get there was two guys on the block. We gotta do better at that ... and box out better. We're one of the best in the country at not allowing second shots, not tonight."
Seven of Michigan State's 11 offensive rebounds came in the second half.
"The second half they were just better than us," Beilein said.
Izzo harped on the significance of this win, particularly with Joshua Langford and Nick Ward out.
"We had some guys step up, because the guys that stepped up weren't as good as the two we lost, I'm not gonna lie about it," Izzo said. "But they just kinda rallied, like a team, like you're supposed to rally ... Every Michigan State alum should be proud of this team."
When it was all said and done, Michigan State's physicality simply won out. Michigan came out firing, but in the second half it appeared burned out. Brazdeikis fouling out was the final nail in the coffin for the Wolverines, and Michigan State capitalized in order to win a share of the Big 10 on its Senior Night. At the end of the game, Tom Izzo took a timeout to get Marcus Bingham Jr. and Conner George onto the floor while taking out seniors Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins, so the two could get an ovation from the Breslin Center.
Michigan started the game 5 of 8 from beyond the arc and they would end 8 of 22. Of the eight 3-pointers Michigan made, Brazdeikis and Poole made six of them. The Wolverines shot just 31 percent from the field in the second half, and the Spartans capitalized on every Michigan mistake -- at one point ripping off a 25-4 run in the second half after trailing by as many as 12. Once Michigan State took the lead for the first time, it would never relinquish it again.
"I think they were hotter than hot the first half, I haven't seen them make those kind of shots -- there's always a happy in between," Izzo said. "But we did one important thing in the second half: We tried to guard them a little bit. We didn't do a very good job of that in the first half. And yet I think they cooled off a little bit too, they had some shots that didn't fall, you know -- We had some shots that didn't fall ... But that place might have had something to do with it second half, those people got behind us. That place was like old times."