EAST LANSING, MI — The Michigan Wolverines (10-4, 1-2 B1G) and Juwan Howard started off the 2020 calendar year on a bit of a sour note on Sunday afternoon, losing to the rival Michigan State Spartans by a score of 87-69. It is Tom Izzo and company’s fourth-straight win in the series dating back to last season.
Jon Teske led the team in scoring with 15 points, but fouled out with four minutes to play. Zavier Simpson had 14 points and eight assists, while Franz Wagner chipped in with 10 points of his own.
Forward Isaiah Livers, who injured his groin in the win over Presbyterian College on Dec. 21, did not play for Michigan for the second game in a row. Brandon Johns Jr., and East Lansing, Michigan native, started in his place at the four. He finished the game with 12 points and two rebounds.
Michigan went into the locker room at halftime down 44-34. The Spartans’ halftime lead was built on 16 points from senior point guard Cassius Winston, who has been a boogeyman for the Wolverines the last two seasons and finished the game with a career-high 32 points. The Wolverines would shoot only 36.8 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes of play and for 2-for-12 from three-point range while shooting only eight free throws. Conversely, MSU shot 53.8 percent from the field and went to the free throw line 17 times.
Things did not get much better for Michigan coming out of the locker room with Winston continuing to burn the Wolverines defense. MSU would lead me 67-51 at the under-12 media timeout. Michigan was able to get the lead down to nine points with a quick 7-0 run to get it to 67-58. The Wolverines would be able to get a bit closer at 71-63 on a Johns three with around seven minutes to go. That said, MSU just kept answering and would ride this one out with a double-digit victory.
- This result is not all that surprising considering how important Livers is to the team on both ends of the floor. He is one of the heartbeats of this basketball team and without him on the floor and his ability to stretch the floor from the forward spot, the spacing just was not there throughout much of this game. Simpson and Teske did what they could to keep Michigan in this one without their fellow upperclassman leader, but the team just does not have enough punch offensively right now.
- As far as Livers’ replacement goes, Johns belonged out there and was one of the standouts for Michigan in this game. He still has a ways to go, but his development from the start of this season to where we are at now has been impressive. Even when Livers returns, he should be a big part of their plans as he continues to develop.
- The Wolverines were a mess defensively in this game and it was perhaps their worst performance on that end of the court this season so far. Winston did what he does best and destroyed Michigan’s ball screen defense and abused and exploited their drop coverage throughout the afternoon. On the occasions they chose to hedge in those situations, the Spartans were also able to exploit that. Winston is one of the nation’s best players and had one of the best games of his career on Sunday.
- Austin Davis coming in and giving Michigan good minutes is no longer an outlier and is starting to become a habit for them. It would not be a surprise if he were to start eating into even more of Colin Castleton’s minutes. Castleton had a rough go of it and really was not a factor when he was on the floor in this game.
- If Eli Brooks is going to continue to start for this team, they need more out of him. He had some hot-shooting moments in non-conference play, but he has disappeared in these bigger road games and Michigan just needs more offense from the guard spots. David DeJulius also falls into this category but was better in the second half of the game.
- This was as emotional as we have seen Howard in a game since the season started. He has been fairly level-headed and has preached mental stability with his team, but things got a bit out of control in the second half during a sequence where he received a technical call for charging the court during a fast break. Things got a little frantic for a bit there. That said, he deserves credit for keeping his team engaged and fighting to come back throughout. MSU and Winston just had an answer for everything whenever Michigan had a chance to get a run cooking.
- It just could not be a good win without any issues for MSU, as the fans broke out the “little sister” chant at the end of the game. Neat!
Next up for the Wolverines is a tilt with the Purdue Boilermakers at home on Thursday night. No word yet on if Livers will be available or not.