Five Key Plays: Michigan State at Michigan

Alejandro Zúñiga

John Beilein said Michigan will “try to find every silver lining we can” following its 80-67 loss to Michigan State on Tuesday night at the Crisler Center. With Five Key Plays, we look at what the Wolverines did well — and, overwhelmingly, break down what went wrong — in the rivalry defeat.

1) Abdur-Rahkman picks up two early fouls

Similar to the Wolverines’ first meeting with Michigan State, foul trouble became a major issue in the first half. Tuesday, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman picked up two fouls in a minute and was relegated to the bench.

The first foul was of the offensive variety, as the guard pushed off while driving the baseline. Moments later, he was called for a block on Alvin Ellis III — though he may have been in position to take a charge.

Beilein yanked Abdur-Rahkman because of the foul trouble, and the Spartans promptly went on a 22-6 run until the guard reentered.

2) Michigan State gets hot from the floor

Without Abdur-Rahkman’s athleticism, Michigan State picked apart Michigan’s defense.

Michigan was focused on transition defense all week in practice and actually does a good job here. The Wolverines get back and are able to get a deflection from Aubrey Dawkins.  Unfortunately for Michigan, the ball went out of bound and back to Michigan State. The Wolverines almost come up with a steal once again, but Travis Trice recovers the ball and then hits a critical three over Spike Albrecht.

A steal and layup on this possession cuts the deficit to one possession, instead the three put Michigan State ahead by 8.

Seconds later, Trice easily turned the corner on Dawkins to drive into the lane for a runner, and Mark Donnal’s help defense meant Branden Dawson was unmarked for the putback. Zak Irvin committed a turnover on Michigan’s next offensive possession, and the Spartans pushed the pace, resulting in another three for Trice.

After a long two-point jumper from Albrecht cut the lead to 11, Bryn Forbes silenced the Crisler Center crowd with a corner three. That time, Dawkins didn’t follow his man, and Forbes got the pass back from Dawson for the open look.

3) Abdur-Rahkman scores first four buckets of second half

Michigan’s hope of a comeback came in the form of Abdur-Rahkman. The electric freshman scored the first four buckets of the second half — 10 points in four minutes — to keep his team within a reach.

The first was a corner three, a look created from Albrecht’s drive from the top of the key. Forbes left Abdur-Rahkman to provide help defense — a move Tom Izzo would later criticize — giving the freshman a clean catch-and-shoot look.

Abdur-Rahkman’s next three was a product of his own creation. The guard’s ability to drive meant Forbes gave him just enough space for a pullup jumper from the top of the key.

On the following offensive possession, Albrecht turned the corner and drove on action similar to the first play of this sequence. That time, Forbes followed the Spartans’ gameplan and stayed on Abdur-Rahkman, but the freshman drove on him anyway and used a powerful jump step to create separation for a short jumper.

The guard’s 10th point of the half came in transition, after Dawson missed a powerful dunk. Abdur-Rahkman used his speed to beat everyone down the court, and he finished with a finger roll to bring Michigan back within 11.

“He looked like he wanted to take over,” Izzo said. “That’s good for a freshman.”

4) Dawkins misses tip slam, Trice hits three

Aubrey Dawkins could’ve blown the roof off the Crisler Center. Denzel Valentine didn’t box him out on an Abdur-Rahkman three-pointer, and the freshman attacked the rim for what would’ve been a monster putback slam to cut the Spartan lead to 11.

But Dawkins missed the dunk, and Michigan State got out in transition with a numbers. That left Trice alone at the top of the key, and the Spartans got him the ball. The senior captain sank the three-pointer, extending his team’s lead back to 16.

5) Michigan State gets consecutive multiple-score possessions

Every time Michigan threatened at a comeback, the Spartans responded with a big play of their own.

Nowhere was that more apparent than consecutive possessions during which Michigan State got offensive rebounds off missed free throws.

The first came with 10 minutes left, right after Michigan had cut the lead to 10. Gavin Schilling was fouled by Mark Donnal on a made layup, but he missed the free throw. Donnal and Dawkins couldn’t corral the rebound, and the loose ball was eventually recovered by Valentine. He fired a cross-court pass to Trice, and, as Michigan scrambled to get set defensively, the senior lobbed to Schilling for a lay-in.

On the ensuing possession, Dawson missed his second free throw after getting fouled on a shot. Again, Donnal and Dawkins seemed to get a hand on the ball, but the Spartans wound up with possession. The Wolverines recovered well to prevent a quick bucket, but the possession ended with an easy inside basket after Dawkins went for a steal inside.

The Matt Costello layup made it 62-47, and fans began leaving for the exits early.

  • Wayman Britt

    Got to give Beilein credit he is trying to recruit better players. Last weekend he watched Battle and now he is down watching Langford and Powell. The club has a good core group and great role players it just needs one or two studs. Let’s pray Beilein hits a home run on one or two of them.