Bob Wojnowski, Matt Charboneau and James Hawkins break down MSU's win over UM The Detroit News
East Lansing — Michigan was in control through the first 26 minutes.
Then with 14 minutes left in Saturday’s rivalry rematch, everything slowly started to slip from the Wolverines' grip and spiral out of control.
The offense couldn’t get a shot to drop. The defense couldn’t do anything to get a stop. The frustration mounted as the cycle repeated itself for roughly eight minutes.
By the time it ended, No. 9 Michigan State had ripped off a 25-4 run and never looked back, burying No. 7 Michigan’s hopes to grab a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a 75-63 loss at Breslin Center.
“I think we imploded a little bit on a couple occasions," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "They blocked a couple shots during that time and that was huge. Then we missed some shots. We even had a couple air balls. That's really tough for us. Now they're out and they didn't miss at their end.
"We lost some coverages in transition. They put you in great rotations and we tried to stay out of that more than we were last time, but they got them."
For Beilein, the disappointing part of the tide-turning flurry wasn’t the offense's ineffectiveness or the defense's struggles. It was the manner in which everything unraveled.
When the Wolverines (26-5, 15-5 Big Ten) needed to buckle up, they didn't. Instead, they buckled, got away from themselves and showed a lack of composure.
“We weren't as poised as we needed to be,” Beilein said. “We needed to be poised at that time and we weren't. We won at Villanova. We won at Maryland. When we went to Illinois we played between like 90-percent and 100-percent packed houses and we did not lose our poise in all seven of our road wins. Today we lost some poise.”
Michigan showed plenty of it in the first half when it held Michigan State to as many turnovers (nine) as made field goals, shot at a 50-percent clip (15-for-30) and led by as much as 12.
But in the second half, a similar story unfolded like the first meeting as the Wolverines' offense went missing and Michigan State's Cassius Winston went to work against Michigan's ball-screen defense. This time, Michigan went over seven minutes between made field goals and Michigan State had a six-minute stretch where it made 10 consecutive shots.
Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers and sophomore guard Eli Brooks cited bad shots and missed mismatches played a part in the offense grinding to halt, while a lack of pressure, lack of energy, lack of concentration and lack of communication foiled the defense.
Blend it all together and Michigan watched an eight-point lead turn into a 13-point deficit in the span of eight minutes.
“I feel like at that point a couple guys started cracking and we can't do that with seven minutes left against your rival going for a Big Ten championship,” Livers said. “That kind of messed us over. We've got to stay locked in and focused until the game is over.”
Of course it didn't help that Michigan, whose strengths include defensive rebounding and defending without fouling, attempted seven free throws to Michigan State's 30 and gave up 11 offensive rebounds en route to losing the board battle 46-20.
But with the regular season in the rearview and the postseason up next, Michigan will look to turn the loss into a lesson and regain what it lost on Saturday.
“Really we just got to trust our game plan,” freshman guard David DeJulius said. “Second half I think we didn't trust our game plan. We have to know we had a great season and what got us here we have to continue to do that. We have to continue to listen to the coaches and continue to have each other's back."
Michigan coach talks about his team's performance and what went wrong in the second half in Saturday's 75-63 loss at the Breslin Center. James Hawkins, The Detroit News
Matthews a no-go
Redshirt junior wing Charles Matthews missed his third straight game with a right ankle sprain.
For the first time since he suffered the injury against Michigan State on Feb. 24, Matthews was dressed in uniform and went through most of the team’s pregame warm-ups with a brace on his right ankle.
But after testing out his ankle, Matthews informed the coaching staff before tip-off that he wasn't going to be able to play.
“I was hoping he would be back today,” Beilein said. “I really thought there was a realistic chance at it, but he just couldn't go. Yesterday he was trying, and it just doesn't feel right. We're not going to make that young man go out there unless it feels right. We'll see what it does. I thought he'd be able to play today but there was no way he could play. He's working so hard to come back.”
For the third straight game, Livers started at the three spot in Matthews’ absence.
When asked if Matthews could have played in an emergency, Beilein said, "No, because of (the) foul trouble he probably would have been there."
Yet, Beilein remains hopeful that Matthews will be able to return for next week’s conference tournament.
“He's going to tell us what his body feels,” Beilein said. “He actually ran, he did some fast-break drills yesterday, made a beautiful 3 in traffic — he did everything. But he couldn't cut the way he wanted to cut and we're not going to put him out there. He'll be a liability defensively, offensively.”
During Michigan State's big run in the second half, there was an instance where Beilein signaled for junior guard Zavier Simpson to dribble over toward the Michigan bench to take a timeout.
But when Simpson did, he noticed Winston had eased up and took his guard down. So rather than call a timeout, Simpson flew by Winston and drove to the rim where he missed a layup.
Michigan State scored on a Winston layup on the other end and on Michigan's ensuing possession, Beilein was more demonstrative with his timeout request and gave Simpson a glare when play was finally stopped.
"You think that was a play? To almost call timeout?" Beilein said when asked what happened. "I wanted to call a timeout. We had one coming up, we had double timeouts (with under-8 media timeout). He and I will talk about that."
... Michigan will be the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten tournament and will begin its quest to three-peat in a quarterfinal at approximately 9:30 p.m. Friday.
... Freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis fouled out with 5:10 to play after scoring 20 points in 22 minutes. He's the first Wolverine to foul out in a game since Matthews did at Penn State on Feb. 12.