The Michigan State Spartans welcomed the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines to the Breslin Center for the 2020-21 season finale, and sent them packing with a huge 70-64 loss. MSU was solidly in the bubble discussion per most bracket experts heading into today’s game, but a win over the No. 2 team in the country likely clinched a bid for a 23rd straight season. Not only that, Michigan State just dominated in this game far beyond the final score margin.
This game got out to the usual sluggish start in terms of scoring in the first half, but it was to the Spartans’ advantage. Michigan drew first blood with a jumper by Hunter Dickinson exactly one minute into action, but MSU leaped out to an early 5-2 lead as Joshua Langford scored a jumper to tie it at the 18:38 mark and a three-pointer by Malik Hall at the 17:17 mark pushed MSU ahead.
Michigan rallied to take the lead back briefly at the 15:38 mark on a jumper by Eli Brooks, but Brooks came down hard on his ankle and had to be assisted off the court. The Spartans took advantage to go on a 7-0 scoring run before Michigan could finally respond.
However, after pushing the lead back to five at the 10:32 mark, Michigan State went on a 4:28 scoring drought that saw the Wolverines come back to seize a brief lead for 22 seconds at 16-15. The lead flipped back and forth down the stretch as both teams struggled to score. The Spartans rallied down the stretch, though, and headed into the locker room up 30-26 at the half. Though, CBS struggled a bit with that detail at the start of the halftime show.
Overall for the half, Michigan State led for 12:45 of the half to Michigan’s 3:38. The bench provided 20 points, 11 of which came from Rocket Watts. MSU had a commanding lead on the boards for the half 22-19, while both teams had five turnovers.
As for the second half, Michigan State never trailed. Despite shooting just 2-for-7 from three-point range in the second half, a 10-for-17 performance from two-point range helped power Michigan State past the Wolverines. Just three turnovers in the half helped as well, though some of those were problematic late in the game as Michigan was trying to mount a comeback.
The Spartans mostly traded baskets with Michigan early in the second half. Then at the 13:53 mark, Michigan State mounted a 11-4 run capped off by a pair of free throws by Aaron Henry at the 8:13 mark to make it 52-42 MSU.
Then at the 5:58 mark, MSU seized its largest lead of the game, up 55-44. However, Michigan proceeded to chip away at the lead to make it a two possession game starting with a three by Chaundee Brown with 4:55 to go. No matter what answer Michigan State had for the Wolverines down the stretch, Michigan refused to go away quietly over the final minutes.
Then just as Michigan made it a two point game with 1:13 to go as Hunter Dickinson drew an and-one opportunity off a foul by Langford to get a three-point play, the lone senior for Michigan State answered with his own three-pointer with 0:49 left to make it 64-59.
The Wolverines could never recover after that as they failed to bring the game closer than four down the stretch. Watts finished as the leading scorer with 21 points on the game, while Henry had 18, and Joey Hauser added 11. Watts also led the team in assists with four, while Marcus Bingham Jr. led on boards (eight) and steals (three), and Bingham and Julius Marble both had a block.
Overall the bench scored 41 points for MSU, 21 of those coming from Watts. The Spartans also had 13 points off the fast break. MSU finished ahead on the boards as well, 32-38. Next up will be the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday. In the meantime, enjoy that celebration Spartan fans, because the team sure earned it as well.
SPARTAN DAWGS. pic.twitter.com/1a8mObbcgu— Michigan State Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) March 7, 2021