Three keys for Michigan State against Michigan

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Cassius Winston

The Detroit News’ Matt Charboneau breaks down three keys for Michigan State in Sunday’s game against Michigan at Crisler Center (3:45 p.m., CBS/WJR 760, WWJ 950).

Take care of the ball

This could really be one of Michigan State’s keys to victory regardless of who it is playing, but it becomes especially critical against Michigan considering the Wolverines are such a good defensive team and they don’t turn the ball over themselves. Michigan ranks third in the nation in turnover percentage, according to, which means it rarely beats itself.

That hasn’t been the case this season for the Spartans, who rank 200th in the nation in turnover percentage. Its 13.3 turnovers a game rank 13th in the Big Ten and Michigan State forces just 10.8 a game. In three of their five losses, the Spartans have turned the ball over 18, 17 and 24 times. They also gave the ball up 24 times in a victory over Texas and 19 times in a win at Iowa. Post those sorts of numbers on Sunday and a game that many believe will be close could turn into a runaway win for the Wolverines.

Like most things for the Spartans, it begins with Cassius Winston. He’s averaging 2.8 turnovers a game but is only a couple of weeks removed from a career-worst nine turnovers at Illinois. He bounced back by not committing a turnover in a win at Minnesota, a number he likely won’t repeat on Sunday but one he’ll need to come closer to than nine.

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Run, run and run some more

There’s no secret to Michigan State’s offensive approach and that is control the glass and get out on the fast break. The Spartans and Winston are at their best in transition as they rank third in the Big Ten and in the top half of the nation in tempo. In conference play, the Spartans have scored 20 or more fast-break points five times and scored 47 against Oakland, 38 against Louisiana-Monroe and 34 in a win over Tennessee Tech.

Michigan will do its best to slow that down and does so on most nights by not sending many men to the offensive glass. That’s something that will allow the Wolverines to get back, but could also play into Michigan State’s hands as getting on the offensive glass is the key to starting the break.

There will also be no let-up in Michigan State’s approach as coach Tom Izzo said this week that “it’s full speed ahead,” as the Spartans don’t intend to change their style of play at this point in the season. The Spartans have been held to single-digit fast-break points just twice in Big Ten play this season, something they’ll have to avoid against the Wolverines.

Get on the glass

Despite some size with Jon Teske and overall athleticism, Michigan is not a great rebounding team on either end of the floor. It’s absolutely an aspect of the game Michigan State should and must control if it expects to come away with a victory. The Spartans are second in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation in rebounding margin and are 20th in offensive rebounding percentage, according to The offensive numbers are a staple of the Michigan State offense as the Spartans have recorded double digits in second-chance points nine times in conference play, including 28 in a win at home over Purdue earlier in the season.

The place Michigan State has had problems this season is rebounding on the defensive end, allowing teams double digits in second-chance points 10 times while giving up more than 10 offensive rebounds 12 times in conference play, including 21 against Iowa and 20 to Indiana. Michigan doesn’t crash the offensive glass, something that should allow Michigan State to avoid any similar numbers and has the added benefit of allowing the Spartans to get out in transition more consistently.

Twitter: @mattcharboneau