We don’t need much of a preview here. For the first time in nearly a year and a half in any major sport, Michigan State beat Michigan at the Crisler Center only a couple weeks ago. The Wolverines failed to land an early knockout blow and the Spartans were able to score enough points to stretch out a lead against a struggling Wolverine attack.
Beilein’s bunch had a six point lead over Izzo’s crew before Michigan State closed the game on a 32-19 run to win 77-70 in Ann Arbor.
Michigan State shot 50 percent from the field and only turned the ball over six times. Cassius Winston took out a career’s frustration against Zavier Simpson, dropping 27 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and 13-of-14 from the free throw line. Three other Michigan State starters reached double digits with Matt McQuaid, Xavier Tillman, and Kenny Goins scoring 13, 14 and 16 respectively. Goins capped off his double-double effort with 11 rebounds to boot.
The Spartans didn’t play spectacularly, but they did everything you need to do to beat Michigan. They shot the ball well enough, made their free throws, didn’t turn the ball over and kept Michigan’s offense inefficient.
To that end, only one Michigan starter shot above 50 percent from the field. That was Jon Teske, who put up 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting. The Wolverines shot 39.7 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from three in the first meeting, notches that will not be good enough to beat a team of the Spartans’ caliber. Charles Matthews, who is questionable to play today, only made one of his eight field goal attempts.
Solid free throw shooting, a surprise to some, kept the offense afloat. Simpson had 19 points and five rebounds to pace the team. Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole combined for 31 points on 24 shots, though were a combined 3-of-12 from behind the arc.
Going into tonight, the key will be for Michigan to play better defense than it did in the first meeting while landing the big punches it is capable of early. I’d go as far to say Michigan’s top six players are capable of playing at a high level and making shots. It’s just a matter of getting them in sync to do so. We’ve seen that in thorough demolitions of UNC, Villanova and Ohio State.
In their most recent loss, the Spartans turned the ball over 14 times against the Indiana Hoosiers. In their three previous defeats, Winston and company turned the ball over 24 times against Illinois, 10 against Indiana (again) and 12 against Purdue. That’s the key. Force turnovers, particularly out of Winston — who had nine in the disaster against the Illini — and you have a good shot to come out on top.
Knowing how Zavier Simpson tends to respond to things like this, I think we’ll see a much more inspired team effort out of the Wolverines’ defense.
How To Watch:
Date: Saturday, March 9
Location: Breslin Center — East Lansing, Mich.
Tipoff: 8:00 p.m.
Television: ESPN (WatchESPN Link Here)
Question of the Day: Will Charles Matthews play today, and what can he contribute if he does?