The Michigan State Spartans won the Big Ten Conference tournament Sunday in Indianapolis, IN blasting the Michigan Wolverines 69-55. The win over their biggest rival boosted the Spartans to a No. 4 seed in the East region and likely prevented Michigan from getting a No. 1 seed. The Wolverines landed a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region.
Michigan State is on a roll now having won three in a row, all in the Big Ten tournament, and was led Sunday by senior forward Adreian Payne’s 18 points and nine rebounds. Gary Harris and Branden Dawson, both Indiana natives, chipped in 15 each for the Spartans.
The win gives the Spartans a measure of payback as they had lost both meetings with the Wolverines during the regular season. This tournament performance puts them on everyone’s radar again. They will not be surprising anyone nor will any team out there be overlooking head coach Tom Izzo’s team once the tournament begins and they start advancing. Because as much as his teams struggle during the regular season, they will advance. Izzo dominates in the tournament.
This title is the second in three years for Michigan State and their fourth since the Big Ten started playing the tournament in 1998. The Wolverines never really had a chance in this game after jumping out to an early 9-4 lead. Michigan State scored 12 straight points and never looked back after that. The Wolverines just could not buy a bucket, shooting just 31.5 percent from the floor. Part of that was due to the Spartan defense, as Michigan State blasted the Michigan Wolverines in all phases of the game. Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas was the lone bright spot for Michigan, leading the Wolverines with 17 points, but even he had trouble shooting the ball as he went 4 for 17 from the floor.
So once again the Spartans are peaking at the right time and some of that has to do with health. Sunday’s victory was the first time all season Michigan State started the same lineup for the fifth consecutive game. They had not done that all year coming in to the Big Ten tournament. One of the players who suffered from injury was Dawson, voted the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. The junior swingman had missed the first two games against Michigan with a broken hand but made the most of his opportunity Sunday, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the second half when the Spartans put the game away. By contrast Harris scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
Michigan State will now move on to play 13th seeded Delaware in Spokane, WA. Michigan drew 15th seeded Wofford in Milwaukee, WI. Both teams will play Thursday and both will be prohibitive favorites. Until then, Michigan will try to find the shooting touch that disappeared against the Spartans. It would probably be wise not to worry about it too much. What happened Sunday was less about what the Wolverines did wrong and more about the Spartans blasting Michigan out of the state.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Detroit Free Press