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MSU 80, UM 67: Kneejerk Reactions

Recapping the big win in Ann Arbor

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

First, and foremost:

Second, and almost equally important:

Third, this game helped solidify the BUBBLECON 4 status for MSU and inch it towards 5. With another two wins, MSU is nearly assured of a tournament spot. That, by itself, it a major reason to celebrate. None of the remaining games is a gimme, but two wins should be doable, especially considering the way this team has played over the past 10 days.

Fourth, this game was sort of important to the rivalry, no? Regardless of excuses, whining, etc, Izzo now holds a 9-6 lead over Beilein. Regardless of how the regular-season sweep occurs (and who knows if we'll see UM in the BTT), the wins still count. UM won't be giving back those wins last regular season. Also, Izzo just clinched at least a .500 conference record in each of his seasons at MSU. That's pretty cool.

Some bullets:

  • Branden Dawson was playing with his hair on fire. 10 for 12 from the field. 23-13-4 in points-rebounds-assists, with just one turnover. Dawson made some jumpers that are usually relatively low-percentage plays, but this team also just consistently found open guys, and Dawson took advantage. Have to be thrilled.
  • Travis Trice played really well, and I'm not sure how much of it had to do with him coming off of the bench. He was 4-6 from three (identical to the Northwestern game) but just hasn't shot it that well consistently in Big Ten play. He also posted a 7/1 assist to turnover ratio. It helps when he can be played at the two against smaller teams, certainly.
  • Defense was an issue, especially in the second half. There were just far too many open threes allowed. Even though it didn't matter in this game, if the offensive rebounding hadn't been so good at the beginning of the second half, this would've been competitive. Especially considering Michigan's healthy personnel, that's inexplicable.
  • Tempo stats will make this seem like a slow game on the whole (just 57 possessions) but MSU came out scorching and that tempo stopped Michigan from congealing their defense in any way. Is this the benefit of Tum Tum starting? I don't know. But it certainly worked this time.
  • Free Throw Shooting was better, and MSU hit 10 of 12 down the stretch to get MSU to over 70% in what seems like forever. Maybe that can continue?
  • Mavin Costelling had 17 points on 8-8 shooting (!) with 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. The foul trouble was there, but against Michigan it wasn't a major issue to play Colby Wollenman some, and I always like the small lineup with Marvin Clark at the 4 and Dawson at the 5. Efficient game for the dual center monster.
  • Denzel Valentine was quiet, but that seemed like UM design. And truthfully, I liked Denzel picking his spots and deferring to others. It was the right call given the interior dominance and Trice's game.

Credit Michigan for continuing to compete throughout the game. There were some tense points in the second half that I certainly didn't expect.

But this MSU team looks improved since the Illinois game, and the reasons for optimism continue to grow. In addition to the Valentine's Day game, this regular season sweep of Michigan will be something to remember, regardless of their depletion.