Game 26: Michigan State at Michigan Recap

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan vs Michigan State_7

Michigan 79, Michigan State 70. Photo Gallery. Beilein presser. Izzo presser. Player reactions. More player reactions. Box Score. Photo: Scott Mapes

Michigan still has four games left on its schedule, but is close enough to taste a Big Ten Championship after sweeping the Spartans on Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines took Michigan State’s best shot, trailing throughout the first half, but had too much offensive firepower. Tom Izzo lamented his team’s defense (and lack of rest) after the loss.

“We didn’t guard. We ran for 300 yards, passed for 400 yards,” Izzo said. “But you’ve gotta check someone. That’s the name of the game.”

He’s right. For the second time this season, Michigan State couldn’t check Michigan.

The Wolverines ran up 79 points in 62 possessions – a cool 1.27 points per trip. An impressive total for one game, it was even with Michigan’s 80 points in 62 possessions in East Lansing earlier this year.  Michigan’s offensive outbursts aren’t just the best offensive performances against Michigan State this season, they are the best offensive showings against the Spartans in a Big Ten game over the past three seasons.


In the first half it was Caris LeVert that carried the Wolverines with 14 points, but he gave way to Nik Stauskas in the second. Tom Izzo was forced to slide Gary Harris onto LeVert and Stuaskas pounced. The 6-foot-6 sophomore buried jump shot after jump shot to finally give Michigan the lead and then carried the Wolverines to a comfortable nine point victory.

Michigan’s dynamic duo of 6-foot-6 wings scored or assisted 24 of Michigan’s 27 field goals and combined for an impressive 48 points on 16-of-28 shooting (6-10 3pt) and eight assists.


Michigan State out-shot and out-rebounded the Wolverines, but the turnover gap equalized the game. Michigan’s offense turned the ball over on just five percent of its offensive possessions and the Spartans gave the ball away on 23% of theirs. The net result was six extra field goal attempts and ten extra free throw attempts for the Wolverines.

Nothing was easy for Michigan’s offense, but the backdoor pass really opened things up early. The Wolverines struggled to find backdoor opportunities in earlier losses to Indiana and Iowa, but were finally able to capitalize against an overaggressive defense. Once the back door threat was established, Michigan began to have more room to operate.

Michigan’s coaching staff did a great job of isolating match up advantages on the offensive end. Michigan mounted its comeback in the first half by isolating Caris LeVert and Glenn Robinson III (utilizing a ball screen) on Russell Byrd (playing due to foul trouble) and then consistently dialed up Nik Stauskas in the second as he could shoot over Keith Appling with ease.

Michigan’s defense surrendered well over a point per possession once again, for the 10th time in Big Ten play, but the Wolverines tightened the screws slightly in the second half. The Wolverines got ten stops in 12 possessions midway through the second half (14:14 through 7:56) and that stretch allowed them to take control of the game. Michigan State still scored 1.05 points per trip in the second half, but that was a defensive improvement after allowing 1.24 points per possession in the first.

Michigan State continued its hot shooting from long distance – even Denzel Valentine was knocking them down – but Michigan deserves some credit for holding its own on the defensive glass. The Spartans grabbed just 29% of their misses and scored only nine second chance points.  John Beilein deployed the 1-3-1 zone masterfully in the second half, something he credited to his assistants. The Spartans rarely looked comfortable against the zone and it helped negate Tom Izzo’s ability to draw up set plays out of timeouts.

Someone in the postgame media scrum asked Jordan Morgan about how Michigan used to be on the losing end of this rivalry more often than not, but in actuality Morgan knows more about winning than losing in this rivalry. He’s going to graduate with (at least) a 6-2 record against the Spartans in games that he’s played in. He never lost to Michigan State at home and that says a lot about just how far this program has come.

The rivalry talk can wait until the off season, the Big Ten Championship is the more pressing issue. The Wolverines control their own destiny and need to beat Purdue, Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana to win their first outright Big Ten Championship since 1985-86.

Michigan vs Michigan State_4
Scott Mapes

Player Bullets:

  • Nik Stauskas: Stauskas opened the game with a backdoor dunk, but he didn’t really get going until the second half. After scoring just 4 points on 2-of-3 shooting in the first, he was unstoppable in the second with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting. He demanded the ball from the get go and knocked down shot after shot over Keith Appling and Gary Harris. It was his best game since his game in East Lansing and once he got going there was just no stopping him. Stauskas looked every bit the part of the Big Ten Player of the Year that he wants to be and he picked the right time to come alive again.
  • Caris LeVert: When Michigan’s offense stutters, Caris LeVert gets the ball. That can make him look bad at times, but lately he just continues to produce. There’s no questioning that LeVert is the best one-on-one talent that Michigan has and he carried the Wolverines in the first half. His three going into the half time break (he actually turned around and started running to the locker room while the ball was in mid-air) was one of the biggest shots of the game. LeVert continues to shoot it well from deep and he’s gone from nice story to one of Michigan’s best players.
  • Glenn Robinson III: John Beilein called Robinson a ‘motor man’ after the win and his assessment was dead on tonight. Robinson couldn’t hit anything away from the basket, but he kept playing hard. He finished around the rim and really hustled on the offensive glass (two offensive rebounds, but a big reason that Michigan had three ‘team offensive rebounds). Robinson finished with 15 points on 6-of-12 (0-3 3pt) shooting in 38 minutes.
  • Jordan Morgan: Morgan, like Robinson, was grinding inside. The box score doesn’t show any offensive rebounds, but Morgan played physically down low all night, finishing with 4 points on 1-of-2 shooting. Izzo mentioned after the game that Payne was ‘getting beat up’ inside and Morgan was a big reason for that.
  • Jon Horford: Horford was whistled for five fouls in 16 minutes and only grabbed 3 rebounds (1 offensive), but like Morgan he gave Michigan a physical presence down low. Payne finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds on 4-of-9 shooting (just 4-of-10 at the free throw line) and that’s a pretty good defensive effort by Michigan’s bigs.
  • Spike Albrecht: Albrecht gave Michigan a huge boost and played one of his best games in the past month. Michigan was +19 in the 13 minutes that Albrecht was on the floor and he sparked a number of critical runs. Albrecht was key on pushing the ball to LeVert’s end-of-half triple, but he also keyed a sequence earlier in the first half by hitting a three (assisted by LeVert) and then returning the favor by finding LeVert for a triple.
  • Zak Irvin: Irvin only made one shot (a breakaway dunk) and played just seven minutes in the win. Michigan State had a bigger four man on the floor for the majority of the day, so it was a tough game for Irvin to shine without his jumper working (0-2 3pt).
  • Derrick Walton: Walton had some tough moments on defense dealing with off-ball action, and was just 1-of-5 from the floor. The most impressive stat in his box score line is the 3 assists and zero turnovers. This was only his second zero turnover game of the season.
  • Chezaroo

    It was so nice to see us match or exceed their physicality. Made jump shots and offensive e execution with production, cure a lot of things. Electric atmosphere today, proud of the men in Blue! What a difference it makes when you don’t turn it over like the 1st half of the Wisky game. What were the offensive rebound stats?

  • Hail Blue

    The best part of the game was definitely Nik’s show in the second half. Really good to see him back in his January form.

    • kam

      My favorite part was when the clock hit zero and yet again izzo couldn’t beat Michigan :)

  • kam

    Glad have the on fire nik back but he was beaten by denzel often. But to be fair denzel Prolly doesn’t shoot that well often. And its amazing how Caris can chase Gary around screens for 38 minutes, then proceed to score 23. Crazy endurance. Dan when calling another game the other day said he’d take Caris over any other player 1v1. High praise but I’d probably take parker lol Hes getting BPOY talk but no way he wins it imo. Almost had to use max which was worrisome. PG play was pretty solid. Oh and I was very impressed with Glenn playing to his strengths. Great win.

    • Dr_ZC

      Tim Hardaway Jr said, after he declared pro, that nobody should be surprised if Caris turns out to be the most improved player on the team. Hard to argue, for the guy who used to play one-on-one against Burke last year in practices.

  • Dr_ZC

    I was ticked by Valentine and his smack talk to Hortford. I did not like his dental work, and the fact he escaped the T, but he who laughs last, laughs the best.
    I also enjoyed the floor slap by MSU at the beginning of the second half. That was the kiss of death for them. They should have remembered they did the same in EL, and they went downhill right after that.
    Great game and great win. One of the best this season. Big 10 title is ours to lose. Go Blue.

    • David

      The last two 2nd halves msu has done some floor slapping, michigan has scored a combined 95 points.

    • jakerblue

      who slaps the floor of somebody else’s court, that’s just obnoxious

      agreed about Valentine, I’ve never liked his attitude he has always irked me

      • catwomanrx

        Can someone explain to me the reason for a floor slap? I noticed that several times in EL, too, and I can’t figure out why they do it. To intimidate their opponent? Thanks…

  • arsenal926

    One of the players said it, but as soon as Irvin hit the break away dunk there was no chance of Michigan losing today. Even when MSU was up 4 a couple minutes into the second half, it just seemed like a matter of time before Michigan was going to blow the roof off. Speaking of blowing the roof off, the crowd at Crisler seemed as good as its ever been. (OSU with gameday was probably better)

    Michigan needs to take care of business for the next 4 games, but I can’t think of anything sweeter than potentially clinching an outright B1G championship at home, on J-MO’s senior night, and against an Indiana team who gave us one of the most heart-breaking losses ever last year.

    Also, with the way the B1G schedule is set up, our wins against MSU, Wisconsin, and OSU will likely look even better by the start of the B1G tournament. I thinks there’s a good chance Iowa loses either 2 or 3 of their last 5 games.

    • Dr_ZC

      I know coach B is a class act, and he will never allow this to happen, but I would love to see us safely ahead with the game clock winding down to a few seconds, to go for the windmill dunk on them. After all, Oladipo tried to do it last year, and this year they did the same with the game out of our reach. Revenge is a dish that is served cold.

  • Chezaroo

    !Outplayed, Outcoached, and Out-toughed!

  • A2MIKE

    Crisler was as loud as ever today. I have been going to nearly every game for 20+ years and that’s the best I have ever seen our home court advantage, on par with the Breslin this year. As for the game, I agree with the most obvious analysis, but wanted to point to something smaller and really something that turned the tide in this rivalry. We all know that beilein is an offensive genius, but to me our assistants are miles ahead of izzo’s when it comes to in game adjustments (I.e. 1-3-1, running offense with nik and caris isolated to same side, after made scores state likes to push knowing the d relaxes so we adjusted by having our big trap at the top of the key, many more small adjustments that lead to a w. Beilein is a great coach and I wouldn’t want anyone else, but his staff is second to none.

  • Mattski

    Looking forward to hearing lots of opinions about how much promise the wrinkles intro’d today hold for the rest of the season, especially if it seems likely that we’ve figured out how to spring Stauskas.

    • kam

      I don’t think there were any wrinkles. He just did what we have wanted him to do.. shoot over the smaller guard. For the longest time he tried driving on them. When they put Gary on Caris he had 6’2 Appling on him and shot over him. That’s my opinion

      • Mattski

        Well, they did run the backdoor cuts early which probably stretched MSU’s D and maybe caused them to give Stauskas more room–getting back to Beilein basics maybe, more than something new. Once Horford and Morgan are a threat, too. . . maybe another illustration of the fact that with Beilein, when it’s all working it all really works. (The Zen of Coach B.) But it’s true that getting Appling on him was the biggest difference, so maybe the problem will resurface; or maybe the key is that if both Caris and Nik are clicking, we are a tough stop. It is fun to speculate.

  • Wayman Britt

    Big win today. Caris and Nik were the offensive heros, but it was UM’s defense in the second half that won the game. I hope they continue to play better defense the rest of the season.

  • Chezaroo

    Nobody dissing the 1-3-1 today !

    • MGoTweeter

      It was a nice wrinkle and I have always advocated this particular michigan team using it, but its only really effective as a random change of pace. Individually this michigan team is not good on defense and no zone covers that up. Their best chance at being ok on D is to out-effort the opponent and occasionally mix up their D.

      • Chezaroo

        Well said. We have to be able to change it up to keep teams from getting so comfortable. It will never be a long team solution for a team so defensively challenged, but when we play well on offense one or two stops can have a big impact.

    • Truth75

      Coach switching to the zone, after the Izzo TO late in the game when they needed a score badly was huge.. It just killed any set play that was set up. Just beautiful….

  • AADave

    Stauskas and Levert were the biggest stories on offense. But it was nice to see Glenn’s “motor” today. The sky’s the limit for him if he keeps his motor revved.

  • Ben

    Seed thoughts? Ideally a 2 seed in indy region if we win outright.

    • Chezaroo

      Hard to say. We need to build on this performance, four big games left. We were all excited after OSU only to follow that great effort up with that clunkfest against Wisky. If we do win out ( and that is no guarantee ) a two seems probable.

      • David DeMember

        The Charlotte loss pretty much took a potential 1 seed away and makes even a 2 tough. That loss destroyed our computer rankings. I think we’re #5/6 right now and gunning for a 1 seed without it. Our SoS is #3 in the nation.

        • guestavo

          We are a projected 3 seed right now.

    • MLaw

      Seems the consensus is that we were a 4 entering today. Today maybe bumps us to a 3.

      We win outright by winning out I would say we are in two seed range entering B1G Tourney. If we lose the first game (after the bye, so it will be a mid to upper level team) then I could see us slide to the three seed again. Get to the semi’s and we are probably a 2, get to the finals or win and I would say a 2 seed is very likely. Locations are always tricky to figure out.

      If we win share or win outright by losing a game left, shift everything down a seed line. (3-4 range).

      This is just my amateur opinion on this stuff. Unexpected a few months ago that we are talking about 2-4, and not 8-11 for our seed. What a major accomplishment that this team has kept up the consistently good play up after losing out two 1st Round NBA picks.

    • mistersuits

      2 seed in midwest with Wichita State = ideal scenario. Although we will probably run into Kansas again in the sweet 16.

  • MGoTweeter

    That game today reminded me, of most every big game from this team this season. We know at this point that the defense is not going to be above average. It will be great for stretches, very poor for stretches and just ok for stretches. You just have to hope that the great outweighs the poor.

    Likewise the offense seems to have fallen into a pattern when they face good competition. The early game is a feeling out process. I mentioned in the game open thread how the team always seems to need time to adjust to playing through phsyical contact. It might be more than that though. After listening to the postgame from Beilein regarding Stauskas going off in the second half, I think because this team has several capable scorers on their own and a great offensive system, they often look to make the perfect play early instead of just taking over at the first opportunity. A lot of times this means when teams pressure and take away a lot of the looks the system is designed to get, the players defer instead of being aggressive. This is not necessarily a bad thing but something that the players need to find a middle ground with. You don’t want guys jacking early jumpers but you also don’t want to dig yourself into a hole against a good defensive team.

    The biggest takeaway for me from an offensive stand point from this game, was michigan doing a much better job of locating and exploiting mismatches. About midway through the first half I was upset because Kaminski was allowed to guard Levert without consequence. Towards the end of the half, the team found a similar mismatch with whoever Byrd was guarding. In the second half, they attacked Appling when he got matched up with Stauskas including looking to post him up (although I don’t think an entry pass was ever made in those instances). That is a big key for this team’s future success in the tournament. Very few teams have two above average wing defenders to match up with Stauskas and Levert, let alone three if GRIII is going. This team just needs to continue to find the balance between running the offense and letting the key players make plays against mismatches.

  • Mattski

    Best thing about the game for me, as Chezaroo (below): we asserted our will against one of Izzo’s teams down the stretch. It did look to me like having the refs call some early fouls helped. Morford is all grown up now, and handled Payne pretty darned well.

  • jakerblue

    I feel like the tech on Payne was big. It seemed like it took a little bit of the wind out of his sails. He played a solid aggressive first half, but after the technical he just wasn’t much of a factor

  • Jose

    Denzel Valentine shoots like 35% from 3, not sure if him getting hot warrants an ‘even’