Michigan State Basketball: 10 Things We Learned from Win Over Wolverines

Adam BiggersSenior Analyst IIFebruary 12, 2013

Michigan State Basketball: 10 Things We Learned from Win Over Wolverines

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    They weren't going to let a visitor come into their house and push them around. 

    No, the No. 8-ranked Michigan State Spartans made that notion loud and clear in the first half against the No. 4-ranked Michigan Wolverines by taking a commanding 38-24 lead after the first 20 minutes. 

    Tom Izzo's bunch didn't stop there, continuously pouring it on the Wolverines en route to a 75-52 victory in front of a raucous Izzone. 

    Heating up at just the right time, the Spartans let the rest of the Big Ten know to stand on guard. 

    Since there were interesting photos and tweets on the Web prior to the game, they'll be included in this list. But rest assured, there is plenty of game-related analysis in this slideshow. 

    Sure, we could limit this list to the traditional "10 things we learned," but how much fun would that be? 

Spartans' 2014 Hopeful Cliff Alexander Thinks Highly of MSU-UM Rivalry

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    Chicago Curie 5-star sensation Cliff Alexander is on Tom Izzo's wish list.

    The 6'9", 240-pound manchild had a great excuse to travel to East Lansing on Tuesday night. He's a prime target for the Spartans and was in attendance at the Breslin Center, according to the Detroit News' Rod Beard.

    Michigan State 2014 recruit Cliff Alexander, No. 8 in the ESPN rankings, is at Breslin for the game.

    — Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) February 13, 2013

    The fact that Alexander made time to take in a game could have been a good sign for Michigan State. But keep in mind that he also has interest from Florida, Kentucky, Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan.

    According to VerbalCommits.com, Alexander is highly attracted to Michigan State. 

Spartans Fans Don't Appreciate Wolverines' "We On" Saying

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    The Michigan Wolverines wear T-shirts with the phrase "We On" labeled across the chest. Well, Spartans fans kindly disagreed prior to the game.

    MSU fans going with the "You Off" chants as Michigan huddles before leaving the court.

    — Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) February 13, 2013

    While the Wolverines are certainly gaining national attention, the Spartans have strewn together an impressive resume under Tom Izzo's tutelage: six Final Fours, a national championship in 2000, seven Big Ten regular-season titles, and three Big Ten Tournament titles. 

    And don't forget about 15 straight March Madness appearances. 

    Michigan has a respectable resume, but has made just three appearances in The Dance since 1998 (which was vacated due to rules violations). 

    The Wolverines can say "We On" this year. John Beilein certainly has them on track to national prestige. But the Spartans have been there, done that. 

    You've seen Michigan's "We On" shirts. See what #Spartans fans made for tonight's game - wp.me/p1MmDU-qEw (@spartansordie)

    — Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) February 12, 2013

Predictions Are Fun

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    Predictions can be right, they can be wrong—that's the nature of the beast. 

    But boy, are they fun to make. Predicting a Spartans win at the Breslin Center isn't out of the ordinary. Michigan State wins 91 percent of the time at home when Tom Izzo is in charge. 

    Now to the pregame calls: 

    First one comes via Spartan Nation's Hondo Carpenter: 

    I wouldn't give MSU very good odds in Crisler, but on this night, with this crowd MSU wins.

    — Hondo Carpenter (@HondoCarpenter) February 13, 2013

    This next one comes from Spartans legend Morris Peterson—or "MoPete" for those who know Michigan State hoops:

    "I'm going 72-65, Michigan State," Peterson told me just hours before the game. 

    OK, so both were wrong. I was wrong with my 68-61 prediction. No harm, no foul. 

Keith Appling vs. Trey Burke

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    Trey Burke scored five of Michigan's first seven points; he was contained for most of the first half, but still entered the break with a team-high 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting.  

    Keith Appling, on the other hand, couldn't buy a bucket in the opening 20 minutes, sinking just 1-of-7 attempts. Appling started the second half with a mid-range jumper that gave the Spartans a 43-29 lead.

    And then, he stuck himself on Burke, who bulled over Appling and earned his third foul. 

    That's heady play. 

    But individual battles mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, although Burke carried the Wolverines with a team-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting (3-of-5 from long range). Appling finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. 

    It was clear who won the first half of the individual battle, but a solo victory means nothing when your team gets blown out of the gym. 

Jordan Morgan Played but Didn't Impact the Game

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    Jordan Morgan has been bothered by an ankle injury, but Wolverines coach John Beilein inserted him into the lineup, likely in an attempt to counteract the Spartans' bigs and give Michigan some sort of presence in the paint.

    Morgan scored just one point. He also whiffed on an assist attempt in transition: Michigan ran with a two-on-one advantage, but Morgan couldn't find Spike Albrecht, who had a football field's width lane to the rim.

    Morgan was bullied by Nix and Adreian Payne the entire night. 

    The risk-to-reward factor may have been too tempting for Beilein to resist. However, Morgan made no difference Tuesday night. 

Derrick Nix Was Ready More Than He's Ever Been

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    As a senior, Derrick Nix is expected to perform to a high standard. 

    The former Detroit Pershing star has had his ups and downs with Coach Izzo, but he came prepared for war Tuesday night. 

    Nix was key to Michigan State's momentum in the first half and finished with 14 points (7-of-10) and seven boards. 

    He challenged Jordan Morgan at every turn and showed Mitch McGary how to play Big Ten basketball. 

    We learned that Nix is a senior on a mission. Wait for March. 

Glenn Robinson III Is Better Than What He's Shown

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    Glenn Robinson III hasn't played well during his past two conference road games. 

    He scored two points Feb. 2 during Michigan's 81-73 loss to Indiana and put up just eight on Jan. 13 during a 56-53 loss at Ohio State. 

    The "Little Dog" sank 1-of-3 attempts from the field in the first half against Michigan State, resulting in a paltry two points. He put up just a single shot in the second half, and that one didn't fall, either. 

    Robinson III may have the most NBA potential of any Wolverines player but, lately, he hasn't lived up to his high billing. 

Wolverines Offense Operates Too Far from Rim

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    Especially evident in the first half, the Wolverines struggled while trying to establish an inside presence. 

    So what was their remedy? 

    They went to three-land, but that didn't work out to their advantage. Instead of Nick Stauskas knocking down long-range daggers and Trey Burke drilling three-pointers, the Wolverines blew possessions because of their stuck-on-the-three ways (3-for-11 in first half). 

    If Michigan wants to make a run to the Final Four, it has to find a remedy for lack of presence in the paint—the cure isn't shooting three-pointers on several consecutive possessions. 

Gary Harris Isn't Really a Freshman

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    Eligibility-wise, Gary Harris is a true freshman. 

    However, he played like seasoned veteran against Michigan. 

    Games like the one Harris had separate the men from the boys and the average freshmen from the incredibly good first-year players. The former Hamilton Southeastern star already had 12 points by the 16:16 mark of the second half. At that point, the Spartans were well in control, leading the Wolverines, 48-29. 

    Harris produced a team-high 17 points and shot 5-of-9 from long range.

    Some freshmen show up and contribute. Others dominate when it matters most—Tuesday night was one of those nights. Michigan had won three of the previous four matchups with Michigan State. Topping that was the fact that both teams were ranked in the AP Top 10 on game day for the first time in the rivalry's history. 

    It was an important duel for the Spartans.

    Harris may be a first-year player for Izzo, but he's far from an ordinary frosh. 

Adreian Payne Didn't Have to Do Much to Make Presence Felt

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    Adreian Payne's stat line wasn't overly impressive Tuesday night, but the junior center was a difference-making player, nonetheless. 

    His maturation has been something to take note of. Not only has he improved his scholastic aptitude but his mind for basketball has also sharpened. 

    Payne made intelligent moves on defense, and he used his lanky frame to tactfully score baskets to pad the Spartans' lead. 

Spartans Bench Came to Play

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    Michigan State's reserves haven't been the most reliable—minus Denzel Valentine—but they certainly understood the importance of a showdown with Michigan. 

    Although Matt Costello needs work on his overall game, he attacked the rim with more passion and vigor, coming off the bench and giving Izzo productive minutes while fighting for physical baskets. 

    Costello upped his game a notch. Consider Tuesday's contest as Costello's real debut. 

    Valentine's defense and passing ability afforded the Spartans several second-chance opportunities. He showed Spartans followers that he may indeed have a little Magic in him. 

    Even Alex Gauna got into the act; he perfectly positioned himself under the basket around the 11:00 minute mark of the second half, converting a layup that helped the Spartans push their lead to 58-36. 

Branden Dawson's Stock Skyrocketed

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    Branden Dawson scored a career-high 20 points in the Spartans' 78-65 victory over Purdue this past Saturday. 

    While he didn't duplicate that performance Tuesday (10 points, six boards), he did show that he's one of the most effective and dynamic scores that the Big Ten has to offer. 

    Powerful layups, a crowd-rousing dunk in the first half that gave his team a 24-15 lead with just under nine minutes to play in the first half and a handful of great breaks on transition demonstrated the sophomore's knack for putting the ball in the basket. 

We'll Find out Who the King of the B1G Is on Feb. 19

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    Michigan State made a statement Tuesday. 

    If its blowout victory over the Michigan Wolverines wasn't enough to call Michigan State the best in the Big Ten team, a win over Indiana next Tuesday will be. 

    The Spartans lost 75-70 to the Hoosiers in Bloomington in January. 

    But that was in Bloomington. 

    A decisive win Feb. 19 over the Hoosiers—who beat then No. 1-ranked Michigan 81-73 in Bloomington on Feb. 2—will leave no doubt: Michigan State will have to be called the Big Ten's best team. 

Fans Are in for a Great Rematch

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    March 2 can't come soon enough. 

    In order for the Spartans to win the B1G, a split would have been ideal. However, Michigan State can go 2-0 against Michigan this year if it puts forth another effort like Tuesday's.

    Despite a thorough pounding courtesy of Michigan State at the Breslin Center, the Michigan Wolverines will be ready to hold serve at the Crisler Center in just a few weeks. 

    Remember, Michigan is a Top 10 team for a reason. 


    Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan State Spartans basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81