On Tuesday night in East Lansing, there was only one thing on the menu: Wolverine kabob.
Leaving absolutely no room for doubt, Michigan State (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) more than rose to the occasion and skewered the Michigan Wolverines (21-4, 8-4), handing their rival their worst beating of the season by a final score of 75-52.
The Spartans were absolutely electric in all aspects: Defensive prowess, offensive dominance, and creating turnover after turnover after turnover. An overwhelmed Michigan aquad just never had a chance to slow the barrage compounded upon them by the boys in Green and White.
“It was the perfect storm,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We played about as well as we can.”
It’s not often that you hear a head coach say that his team played with near-complete perfection, especially in the case of the hard-nosed Tom Izzo, but last night’s battle (if you can call it that) was right along those lines. The Wolverines simply fell apart at the hands of Michigan State right from the start. Speedy offense and smothering defense won the day for MSU when all was said and done.
Unable to organize a decent drive to the basket, U-M repeatedly turned the ball over – despite having one of the best turnover ratios in the Big Ten. By close of the first half, already up by nearly 20 points, the Spartans slammed the door shut and sealed an all-important and dominating win against an arch-rival who had handed them losses in three of their last four meetings.
“They bullied us — point blank,” Wolverine player Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “I’ve got nothing else to say.”
Coach Izzo saw the outcome as a result of two teams being on the polar opposite ends of the spectrum that night. Both teams do possess a mighty talent, but this time, in the friendly confines of the Breslin Center, the Spartans won out – big time.
“We probably played our best game in three years,” Izzo said. “And, they probably played one of their worst.”
Michigan coach John Beilein couldn’t have said it better himself.
“That was the worst we’ve played in a long, long time and credit Michigan State for that,” Beilein said of the gut-wrenching loss. “We couldn’t get anywhere we wanted to and when we had open looks, we didn’t hit anything.
“Somehow, we did not play with poise that we need to have to make shots.”
Senior MSU captain, Derrick Nix, was dominating on both sides of the court, playing arguably the best game of his career grabbing rebounds and popping in quick field goals throughout the entire night. Team scoring leader, freshman Gary Harris, who should easily be considered for the Freshman of the Year award, netted 17 points and chocked on three steals to boot. Keith Appling, who missed a number of three-pointers and open shots at times, was elated for the big win, but kept his enthusiasm curbed immediately following the game.
“We just have to take it for what it is and prepare for our next game,” Appling said.
Coach Izzo, though, was all smiles after the game while talking to reporters. When you hand your arch-rival one of their worst losses in recent memory and set yourself up to be in prime position to take not only your conference title, but for a top-seeding in the NCAA tournament, it’s hard to not enjoy every second.
“The crowd was just awesome,” Izzo said. “It kind of reminded me of back in the day. I’m not sure we’re as good as we played, but I’ll take it. It was a big win for Michigan State.”
Perhaps from the Wolverines’ perspective, guard Trey Burke said it best.
“It was an embarrassing loss,” a sullen Burke said.
Kind of hard to argue against that…
You can follow MSU Examiner, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.