Since major media outlets began publishing season-preview content this summer, the Michigan basketball team's backcourt has been touted as one of - if not the - best backcourts in the country.
And sophomore point guard Trey Burke and junior guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. have, at times, lived up to the hype.
In recent weeks, as teams adjusted to the Wolverines' freshmen and began siphoning away their offensive opportunities, Burke and Hardaway have carried the load, scoring a combined 119 points in the three games leading up to Tuesday's showdown with Michigan State in East Lansing.
Unfortunately, that momentum did not carried over, and the Spartans ran away with it, 75-52. Burke tallied big numbers, scoring 18 points and adding four assists. But he found himself in foul trouble - and on the bench - early, leading to a quick Spartan run.
Hardaway, who hit so many clutch threes in games against Ohio State and Wisconsin last week, saw his production completely fall off against Michigan State. He went a dismal 1-of-11 from the field, including 0-of-5 from beyond the arc.
"The job that Gary Harris and Keith Appling did on two of the best guards in the country was incredible," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Burke still had some incredible stats but I thought we did a great job with those two. Our whole premise was to try and keep it out of the paint and Derrick Nix did a great job on those ball screens. The stats that matter most to me are turnovers. They had 16 and we had eight which is very unlike them.
"Branden Dawson was the guy we played on Hardaway a lot, and we felt like Gary had a better understanding of helping. Dawson has done a good job against defensively against teams like Ohio State and Purdue and he bounced back to play his best defensive game.
"Harris learned what the rivalry was about, he spent everything he had. (Keith) Appling asked to come out a few times which you like to hear believe it or not because you know they are spending it. You ask for 40 minutes of relentless work and we got every minute out of them."
On the offensive end, Michigan State shot 48.4 percent from the field and collected an impressive 14 offensive rebounds, lengthening possessions and creating more scoring opportunities.
"We did an excellent job of preparing for the different things we wanted to do," Izzo said. "Keep it in perspective that we probably played our best game in three years and they probably played one of their worst. They missed shots and things just didn't fall for them. Starting the game out we wanted to go inside and we did a good job of that. They started doubling so we adjusted and did a good job with that. When they didn't double we dribbled in and were able to kick it across the court. We did a good job with the zone.
"Out-rebounding them by 11 was a big stat and we shot pretty well from the three. I said before the game if we can keep them to six, seven or eight threes and not 11, 12 or 13 we have a chance. It was like a perfect storm. We played about as well as we can play and they did not play as well. They are a much better team and I'm not sure we are as good as we played but I'll take it."