Ann Arbor — If Michigan is to beat rival Michigan State for the fifth straight season at Crisler Center on Tuesday night, it will have to do it shorthanded.
Michigan will be without sophomore point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who has been sidelined for the last six games because of a foot injury. The Wolverines (13-12, 6-7 Big Ten) have gone 1-5 in those six games without Walton, including three losses in overtime and another in the final seconds at Indiana.
"He won't play in this game," coach John Beilein said Monday afternoon.
MSU coach Tom Izzo said earlier Monday that the Spartans were preparing for the possibility that Walton could play, but it looks as if he won't have to.
The concern for MSU, though will be freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who had a season-high 18 points on Feb. 1, when the Spartans won, 76-66, in overtime.
After Tuesday, UM has four games left in the regular season, but Beilein has said that he expects Walton to return before the end of the season. Walton had suffered from turf toe earlier in the year, but Beilein thought that Walton overcompensated for the toe injury and made the foot issue worse.
With another loss at Illinois, Michigan has had its fill of close games and is looking to break through late. With a seven-point lead in the final minutes, the Wolverines relinquished it and collapsed in overtime.
"The big thing for us is just finishing games," Irvin said. "We're right there. Especially in the last game, we held the lead for most of the game and they made their run. We know every team is going to make a run; we just have to stay together when it gets late."
For Spike Albrecht, it was especially frustrating because they had had so much success in recent years in similar situations.
"We have to do a better job of executing and finishing these games out," he said. "I'm starting to get sick of losing these close games."
Michigan State at Michigan
Tipoff: 9 p.m. Tuesday, Crisler Center, Ann Arbor
Records: Michigan State 17-8, 8-4 Big Ten; Michigan 13-12, 6-7
Outlook: Michigan State hasn't won at Crisler Center since 2010 and is looking for the season sweep. The Spartans look to be comfortably in the NCAA Tournament, but a loss could drop them back to the bubble.