The 22nd-ranked Michigan State Spartans avenged their two regular-season losses to eighth-ranked Michigan on Sunday in Indianapolis, shutting down the Wolverines offensively and beating them up on the boards en route to a 69-55 win in the 2014 Big Ten Championship.
SportsCenter's Twitter account announced the result:
VICTORY FOR MSU! Michigan St. beats rival Michigan to win Big Ten title. Tom Izzo now 4-0 in B1G championship games. pic.twitter.com/oGAso9PYbP— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 16, 2014
Michigan State only shot 2-of-17 from three-point range, but connected on 25-of-37 field goals from the inside the arc and held Michigan to 31.5 percent shooting from the floor in the convincing victory.
|Michigan State (26-8, 12-6 Big Ten)||38||31||69|
|Michigan (25-8, 15-3 Big Ten)||29||26||55|
Following Saturday's semifinal triumph over Wisconsin, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo credited the Spartans football program for showing his players how to win big games, per MLive.com's Mike Griffith:
Mark Dantonio has often talked that I kind of showed him the way early how to win championships, and this year he showed me the way. That was the way we started the (basketball) season, learning how to win a championship from our football buddies, and now we have a chance to win our own in the Big Ten. That's a good year, that's a good set of events.
After a three-point play from Derrick Walton Jr. put Michigan ahead 9-4 early, the Spartans countered with a 12-0 run to pull ahead by seven points midway through the opening half.
Nik Stauskas, who single-handedly kept Michigan afloat early with 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from downtown, would eventually stop the bleeding with a timely three-pointer.
Michigan State was unfazed, though, remaining on the attack in the first half, scoring inside and getting to the foul line. Michigan would keep it close thanks to a four-point play from Stauskas but had no answer for Spartans guard Gary Harris, who led the way with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting in the first half. He would be limited in the second half after injuring his shoulder, taking just two shots.
It was obvious early on that Michigan State was the aggressor, per Shaquille Hill on Twitter:
Tech on Belin. 24-14, MSU. Michigan looks outworked Sluggish. Second T free throw is missed. #BigTenChampionship— Shaquille Hill (@TheUnCagedOne) March 16, 2014
Harris' dunk in the waning moments of the opening half gave Michigan State a nine-point lead at the break.
Michigan State's momentum carried over into the second half as the Spartans opened up on a 8-0 run to build a 17-point lead with 16 minutes to play. At that point, the Wolverines' team field-goal percentage had plummeted below 28 percent, per Brent Henderson on Twitter:
Michigan couldn't hit water if the whole team fell outta a boat. Boom. #BigTenChampionship— Brent Henderson (@henderson_brent) March 16, 2014
The Wolverines would cut the deficit to 10 points late, but weren't able to overcome the Spartans' stifling defense down the stretch.
The win snaps Michigan State's three-game losing streak to Michigan and marks the Spartans' fourth Big Ten Tournament title, tying them with the Ohio State Buckeyes for most all time.
Key Player Grades
Gary Harris, G, Michigan State: A
Like his teammates, the sophomore guard struggled to hit from downtown on Sunday, but was aggressive from the outset as the Spartans needed him to be.
Harris finished with 15 points, three steals and zero turnovers.
Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan: C
The entire Michigan team struggled to hit shots and score on Sunday, even Stauskas. The sophomore guard went 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, but he finished 4-of-14 from the field with three turnovers. His 17 points led the way for Michigan, but it wasn't an efficient performance.
Adreian Payne, C, Michigan State: A
Sunday wasn't Adreian Payne's best day offensively, but the senior center certainly played a key role, as many expected he would. Although Payne missed three of his four long-range shots, he scored a game-high 18 points, was a perfect 5-of-5 from the foul line and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds as well.
Which team will make a deeper NCAA tournament run this spring?
Despite Sunday's result, both of these teams are legitimate national title contenders heading into the 2014 NCAA tournament this week. But Michigan State has locked up an automatic berth and will likely be a No. 3 or 4 seed in the bracket.
On the other hand, Michigan's loss is likely to cost the Wolverines a potential No. 1 seed. John Beilein's squad was riding a seven-game winning streak coming into Sunday's Big Ten Championship, but with eight losses on the year will likely have to settle for a No. 2 seed this spring.
We won't know either team's seed or road to the Final Four for sure until the bracket is revealed on Sunday night.
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