No. 2 Michigan Upset by Unranked Michigan State as Rocket Watts Scores 21 Points

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2021

Michigan State guard Rocket Watts (2) drives as Michigan guard Mike Smith defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, March 7, 2021, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Michigan State avenged its defeat to No. 2 Michigan three days ago, capping off its regular season with a 70-64 victory over the Wolverines on Sunday at Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan.  

With 1:12 remaining in the second half, Hunter Dickinson made it a two-point game after scoring inside and hitting his free throw. Joshua Langford responded with a three-pointer to give the Spartans a five-point cushion with 49 seconds to play.

CBS Sports CBB @CBSSportsCBB

EARLY ONIONS https://t.co/tNNoBc2F91

While the Wolverines continued to knock on the door, Michigan State managed to seal the win from the charity stripe.

Rocket Watts led the way for the Spartans, scoring a game-high 21 points off the bench. He also had four rebounds and four assists to deliver arguably his biggest performance of the season.

Joey Hauser played a pivotal role as well, chipping in with 11 points. The depth Watts and Hauser provided was a big factor behind the upset. Michigan State's second unit outscored Michigan's reserves 41-17.

Kyle Austin @kylebaustin

Man, if Rocket Watts and Joey Hauser had been able to play like this all season...

Brendan Quinn @BFQuinn

That elbow jumper from Rocket Watts was huge. What a shot. Michgian was starting to feel itself a little, deficit down to 6, bench back up and cheering annnd Watts' bucket was a silencer. Heads slung on the Michigan side.

Michigan cruised past its in-state rival Thursday to clinch the Big Ten regular-season title.

On that occasion, the Wolverines shot 50 percent from the field as a team and hit seven of their 16 three-point attempts. That efficient offense was nowhere to be seen in the rematch. Dickinson, Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner combined to score 31 points on 11-of-31 shooting.

Little went right for Juwan Howard's squad. Dickinson battled foul trouble (finishing with four), and Austin Davis fouled out with 4:29 left in the second half. Eli Brooks was limited to four minutes on the floor after suffering an ankle injury.

Michigan Men's Basketball @umichbball

Eli Brooks hits the jumper to give U-M the lead, however, he leads on a Spartans foot and appears to roll his left ankle! 🤞🤞 Good vibes PLEASE #GoBlue 〽️🏀

Chris Balas @Balas_Wolverine

Eli Brooks has a left ankle injury, is in a walking boot and won't return to today's game with Michigan State, per U-M spokesman.

The result itself is a downer for Michigan but doesn't ultimately change much since the team was already assured of the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Brooks' injury, on the other hand, could be a big problem in the days ahead.

The absence of the senior guard was glaring Sunday, and the same will likely hold true in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments if he's forced to miss time.

Michigan State, meanwhile, may have sealed passage to the Big Dance. ESPN's John Gasaway wrote the Spartans still had work to do as a bubble team, while colleague Joe Lunardi projected MSU to be one of the last four teams in.

A heavy defeat in Michigan State's first game of the conference tournament could change things, but head coach Tom Izzo can at least rest a little easier now.