MSU makes early lead hold up, beats UM
Ann Arbor — Unlike the first meeting this season, there was no first-half lead, no second-half comeback and no overtime.
And almost as little suspense.
Michigan State jumped to a double-digit advantage in the first half and led from start to finish, dispatching Michigan easily, 80-67, on Tuesday night at Crisler Center.
Branden Dawson had 23 points and 13 rebounds and Travis Trice added 22 points and seven assists for the Spartans (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten), who got their first win at Crisler — and first series sweep against their rival — since 2010.
"Obviously, I thought the difference in the game was in the first half. We made shots and they didn't make them," MSU coach Tom Izzo said. "I give them credit because I've been in those shoes when you've got injured players. I think they've done a hell of a job with them. They played everybody very tough and yet I think we are getting a little better."
It's the fifth straight loss for Michigan, its longest streak since a six-game skid in 2011, and without two of its top scorers — Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. missed the game because of foot injuries — UM struggled to find an offensive rhythm, shooting 36 percent (8-of-22) in the first half and falling behind early.
The Wolverines got a boost from freshman Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (12 points), who scored their first 10 points in the second half, but the Wolverines (13-13, 6-8) couldn't get the defensive stops to get the lead below double digits in the final 20 minutes.
"I have a feeling they're really hitting their stride right now, their timing was really good, their backcourt is exceptional and Branden Dawson is really a difficult matchup for us," UM coach John Beilein said. "When you have a team that's averaging 16 assists a game, it's very difficult to do anything, man or zone, against them."
Michigan cut the deficit to 55-45 with 10:29 left after a 3-pointer by Aubrey Dawkins (12 points) and a pair of free throws by Mark Donnal, but Gavin Schilling hit back-to-back baskets to push it back to 14. That ignited a 9-2 spurt and the Wolverines never got closer the rest of the way.
"You have to give them credit. They played really well and we're not going to win many games when we give up 62 percent from the field," said Spike Albrecht, who had 12 points and five rebounds. "We tried switching it up defensively, going zone and man but we seemed to be in a funk defensively; we couldn't get into a groove."
The game was close for the first seven minutes of the first half. Zak Irvin (16 points) had three straight UM baskets in the first five minutes and MSU led, 8-6, but after a 3-pointer by Trice, Albrecht added two free throws.
Abdur-Rahkman — who had 18 points against the Spartans in the first meeting — picked up his second foul and went to the bench with about 12 minutes left. From there, they went on a decisive 20-6 spurt over the next seven minutes, before Abdur-Rahkman returned.
MSU started with a 10-0 run over a three-minute span, with a pair of 3-pointers by Trice and baskets by Dawson and Bryn Forbes, to push it to 21-8.
The Spartans later added a 6-0 spurt, with back-to-back alley-oops, to take their largest lead of the first half, 33-14.
"They certainly had a Kryptonite for what we could do today and both games this year," Beilein said. "They're really playing at a high level and you can say they're going to be very good down the stretch in February and March because they have really good players, a really good coach, a great system — and they certainly showed that today."
MSU led, 38-23, at halftime and held off the second-half comeback attempts behind Dawson and Trice. During UM's spurts, the pair combined for 11 straight Spartans points, including a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 53-37 with 13:06 remaining.