Izzo's Spartans Trounce Wolverines, 75-52
Well, after weeks of anticipation and a full day’s worth of coverage on ESPN, the best rivalry in all of sports finally came to a head last night at the Breslin Center. After all the hype and trash talk between these in-state rivals, all of the angry texts and tweets and Facebook posts and all of the “put your money where your mouth is” type bets from fans…in the end, it really didn’t turn out to be much of a game. Sparty took the lead early and never looked back, going up by as many as 31 points. Final score? Michigan State 75, Michigan 52.
Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to be there – the place was absolutely electric – but I was more excited to see so many Wolverine fans leaving early, shaking their heads with a “Well, what can you do?” look of disbelief on their faces. Little brother got the best of you this time.
I’ll give credit where it is due – Michigan has a phenomenal, albeit very young team that has tremendous potential, but is lacking in experience. Sophomore guard Trey Burke had only an average night and still put up impressive numbers. Canadian sharpshooter Nik Stauskas weathered the jeers and chants of “USA”, notching 10 points and shooting 50% from behind the arc. There is no doubt in my mind that John Beilein can right the ship and lead the Wolverines deep into the NCAA tournament. In fact, perhaps this loss will help fuel the fire needed to do just that.
For the Wolverines, Tuesday’s loss was its third in four games, coming only a few weeks removed from their #1 national ranking. The loss will likely drop Michigan in the rankings once more, probably out of the top-5 where they have been since the beginning of the season. Luckily for the Maize and Blue, their next opponents are the hapless Nittany Lions, who are 0-11 in conference play. A home game against Illinois and a second matchup with Penn State are all that are separating us from Michigan versus Michigan State, round two.
For Michigan State, the win was its 4th straight, and its 15th straight victory at home. With the win, they locked up the top spot in the Big Ten, and will continue to climb in the national rankings. Michigan State was playing without sophomore guard Travis Trice, who has been averaging 20 minutes per game, but received a boost from former Michigan Mr. Basketball, Matt Costello, who poured in 8 points in only 11 minutes of action.
Perhaps the most satisfying part of the night for this Spartan fan, however, took place after the victory was all but official, when Tom Izzo subbed out the starters in exchange for the players who, quite literally, are “nameless”. Three walk-ons – Emmett Dacey, Trevor Bohnhoff and Bella Sibedwo – each without a name on the back of their jersey, took to the floor for the first time this season, playing the final minute of the game. The Izzone erupted in an ovation when they took the court, and were as loud as ever when freshman guard Trevor Bohnhoff sank a free throw in the waning seconds of the game. Try as he might, Bohnhoff couldn’t mask his smile.
The Spartans will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Cornhuskers on Saturday night before welcoming Cody Zeller and the #1 ranked Hoosiers next Tuesday.