Spartans seniors set the pace in victory at Crisler
Ann Arbor — Michigan State ended a four-game losing streak at Crisler Center on Tuesday night, and as big as that was for the team, it was especially important for the Spartans' two seniors.
Travis Trice and Branden Dawson had never beaten Michigan in Ann Arbor and they got their last crack at it on Tuesday.
They made the most of that opportunity as Dawson scored a season-high 23 points while grabbing 13 rebounds, handing out four assists and recording one block; all while Trice scored 22 and handed out seven assists in Michigan State's 80-67 victory.
"Dawson and Trice were phenomenal tonight," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Trice did a nice job pushing the ball tonight. He had that one stretch where he got Dawson a couple of dunks and a layup, those things are big. We gotta get easy buckets and that's how you shoot 62 percent. Michigan has been a very good defensive team and tonight, like I said, I just think we made shots and they didn't."
Dawson was a force all night, making 10 of 12 shots with one of his misses a dunk attempt that bounced off the back of the rim.
As Trice said, "He was a monster."
And just like he was on Tuesday, Dawson has been Michigan State's most consistent player this season and now has eight double-doubles in Big Ten play and has reached double-figure rebounds in 11 conference games.
"There were some moves he made tonight I thought were big-time moves," Izzo said. "Branden Dawson has been as stable and as valuable as any player we've had. You look at the Big Ten season for sure, he's been the most consistent guy we've had offensively, defensively, and rebounding the ball."
Dawson missed both regular-season games last year with a broken hand. He came back to spark a win over the Wolverines in the Big Ten tournament championship game but getting a win on the Wolverines' home floor was at the center of his thoughts.
"Coming into the game that was very important," Dawson said. "With Travis and myself being seniors we wanted to come out with intensity. Last year I sat there and we got beat twice and it hurt. Getting the win tonight felt great for us, the program and the seniors."
While Trice's season has been more up-and-down, he has adjusted well to coming off the bench, doing so for the third straight game on Tuesday.
He wasted little time heating up, hitting his first three 3-pointers and sparking a Michigan State run that provided its biggest lead at 33-14 in the first half.
"At this point in the season, being here four years you think about the rivalry and not willing," Trice said. "All that (starting or not starting) goes out the window. You focus on getting the win and playing well. I'd just say I was more focused tonight."
It's the type of play Michigan State (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten) needed on this night and will need down the stretch in the conference race.
"It's big," Trice said. "Especially early (in the season) when you're struggling and this feels like the right time to get rolling. We're fighting to get in the (NCAA) Tournament and it's good to be playing well right now."