Michigan State came out strong in a 79-70 loss to Michigan, scoring nine points before the first TV timeout in working both inside and out. The Spartans' Gary Harris hit a triple and a short jumper for five of MSU's points in an 11-6 lead at 14:46, while the Wolverines missed badly on several attempts on the other end.
Sophomore Nik Stauskas weaved inside to score early, but both he and fellow soph Caris LeVert missed badly on short jumpers while the Spartans all but eliminated the three-point line. U-M took advantage out of the first timeout, however, sending Stauskas backdoor for a two-hand slam that cut the lead to 11-8.
Frosh Derrick Walton Jr. had a chance to tie it, but missed badly. The Spartans' Denzel Valentine, who opened the scoring with a jumper, then hit two triples in a row to extend the MSU lead to nine before Walton answered with a triple to stop the bleeding. Still, it was 19-11 at the second timeout (11:40) after the Spartans' Matt Costello hit a tough, turnaround jumper. At that point MSU was shooting 67 percent from the floor and had made three of five triples to U-M's one of two.
LeVert continued to struggle. He airballed again and missed inside, and he also missed a wide-open triple that would have cut the lead to five. Instead, MSU's Adreian Payne completed a three-point play that pushed the lead to 22-11. U-M failed to get a shot before the clock expired on its next possession, and the Spartans were firmly in control.
Freshman Zak Irvin missed a wide-open triple from the top to continue U-M's shooting woes before Spike Albrecht tripled from the corner to cut the lead to eight. LeVert finally got on the board with a triple from the corner to cut it to five, and his steal ahead to Irvin for the jam made it 22-19, bringing the crowd alive.
Sophomore Glenn Robinson III continued to struggle, missing two free throws, but LeVert hit a contested jumper to cut it to one before MSU's Travis Trice tripled from the corner. Morgan answered with a two-hand dunk off Stauskas penetration, but Valentine tripled again to push the lead back to five.
U-M continued to struggle to get looks offensively - when they did, they couldn't knock them down. Irvin hoisted another airball late in the shot clock, and Stauskas continued to struggle to find room to move. Robinson III missed a triple woefully short.
MSU pushed the lead back to seven on two Gary Harris free throws, but LeVert answered with a jumper off the dribble at 1:55. Robinson III scored inside but missed the and-one free throw, keeping the deficit at three until Harris' three-point play pushed it to six. LeVert countered with his own three-point play, and after Harris scored with six seconds left, hit a triple from the corner to make it 36-34 at the break.
Michigan warmed up to shoot 48 percent for the half and only had one turnover. LeVert led U-M scorers with 14 points, while Robinson, Stauskas and Morgan notched four each. Harris had 12 and Valentine 11 to lead MSU.
Stauskas opened the second half with a strong drive against Harris from the top, tying the game at 36, but Payne drove the lane for a two-hand jam. He hung on the rim for a technical foul, though; Stauskas made one of two free throws, and then a short jumper to give Michigan the lead. MSU got it back on a questionable at best block call that Matt Costello turned into a three-point play.
Valentine gave MSU a four-point lead with a drive and finish before Robinson answered inside with a reverse lay-up. Robinson answered a Gavin Schilling dunk with one of his own and a great feed from Walton to make it 45-43, Spartans at 15:42. He continued to struggle outside, though. It was a six-point swing when he missed a triple and Harris answered, but Stauskas tripled from the top to cut the lead back to 48-46 at 14:00. He tied it with a strong drive and finish.
U-M finally grabbed the lead at 11:55 on a jumper from Stauskas at the top, and the crowd became deafening again. The Wolverines still only had one turnover at that point. MSU missed two triples, but worked the offensive glass resulting in a Payne free throw. Stauskas made one of two on the other end to get the two-point lead back.
Stauskas answered Harris' banked three with a triple from the top, and LeVert hit two free throws to make it 56-52, Michigan at 9:45. Stauskas nailed another long triple off the dribble at 8:38 following a LeVert steal that made it 59-52 with 8:38 remaining. He had 23 at that point, including three triples in four attempts.
Michigan went 1-3-1 on the next two trips and got stops on both LeVert tripled on the first in transition and took it baseline and jammed on the second to put the Wolverines up 64-52 at 7:18.
LeVert missed the front end of a one-and-one, opening the door. MSU's Trice tripled to cut it to 64-56 at 5:45. Stauskas answered with two free throws, though, to push the lead back to 10 at 5:27, and a Harris turnover gave the ball back at 5:03.
Stauskas found Horford underneath for a jam at 4:35 that pushed the lead back to 12, 68-56. Michigan then went back to the 1-3-1 and almost created a turnover. Harris, though, tripled to cut it to nine. Robinson III hit a short jumper to make it 70-59 at 3:45, but Payne drove and scored to cut it to 70-61.
U-M got two possessions after a missed three and cashed in on an alley-oop from Stauskas to Robinson to make it 72-61. The lead was 12 at 2:01 after he made one of two free throws, but Kenny Kaminski's three-point play cut it back to nine.
Michigan iced it from the free throw line. LeVert made the last two with 30 seconds remaining to ice the victory.
Stauskas notched 25, LeVert 23 and Robinson III 15 for the Wolverines, now alone atop the Big Ten standings with four games remaining.