Ann Arbor — Early this season, Michigan State was one of the best shooting teams in the nation.
As the season progressed into conference play, those numbers became more inconsistent — very good on some nights and not so much on others.
In Tuesday's 80-67 victory over Michigan at Crisler Center, it was a good night, one that has nearly been unmatched this season. The Spartans shot 62 percent from the field (31-for-50) against the Wolverines, their second-best showing all season.
It came up just short of a 63.2 percent (36-for-57) outing in a win over Loyola-Chicago in the third game of the season.
"I thought the difference in the game was in the first half," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "We made shots and they didn't make them. They had shots and I thought our defense was good, I didn't think it was great. I thought they had some shots that they missed, and boy I've been in that position before. We made a lot of shots and that was a big difference. We moved the ball very well."
Senior guard Travis Trice gave the Spartans a lift from the perimeter, hitting 4 of 6 from 3-point range as Michigan State finished the game 6-for-18. And senior forward Branden Dawson was a force inside, going 10-for-12.
It wasn't all perfect, however. Junior Denzel Valentine was held to six points and took just five shots while junior Bryn Forbes was just 1-for-7 from 3-point range.
"They did do a good on Denzel and I thought we did a good job of moving the ball," Izzo said. "When they went zone I thought … one of our big keys was we knew they'd switch defenses and we said we got to attack immediately so it doesn't look like we don't know what we're doing. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.
"I thought Denzel played OK. So I give them some credit and me some blame. I've got to get him more shots, I've got to do some things for him I guess."
More family squabbles
Former players had some fun on Twitter heading into Tuesday's game, and that actually provided a bit of fuel for the Spartans.
Michigan State grad Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and former Michigan player Nik Stauskas of the Sacramento Kings had a bit of a Twitter battle. At one point, Stauskas used a line that always upsets Spartans.
"I've never seen UM lose to little brother in Ann Arbor," he said in one tweet to Green.
Valentine noticed and was especially vocal before the game.
"Yeah, I was ready to play," he said. "This is a big game for me, with Nik Stauskas tweeting that. It got me even more hyped. I'm glad he tweeted that honestly."
Michigan State has had its issues with turnovers at times this season, but in the last couple of weeks it has done an outstanding job of hanging on to the ball.
In the win over Michigan, the Spartans turned it over just eight times, the fewest since seven in a win at home against Northwestern.
… Dawson moved into ninth place all-time in rebounds at Michigan State with 816. He passed Bill Kilgore, who had 814.
… Dawson also moved up the list in blocks, taking over third place by himself with 118, one better than the 117 from Draymond Green.