Adreian Payne airball on one end - Nik Stauskas triple on the other. That's how the Big Ten Final between Michigan and Michigan State started, and it seemed to bode well for the Wolverines ... until they were whistled for three fouls on the next possession, sending Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford to the bench and changing the tenor of the game in a 69-55 MSU win.
Derrick Walton Jr. hit a three though, to put the Wolverines up 6-2, getting them off to the start they needed with Max Bielfeldt on the floor. Michigan made it 9-4 when Walton finished a three-point play, giving U-M the start it needed.
Foul trouble seemed inevitable, though, the way the game was being called. U-M had four at the first TV timeout, leading to some weird lineups for Michigan. MSU scored the next seven points and controlled the offensive glass for second chance points - four offensive rebounds - to grab an 11-9 lead. It was 16-9 when MSU's Gary Harris hit a triple and notched a steal and finish in transition, putting U-M in an early hole.
Stauskas ended the bleeding with a big triple at 11:30, heading into he second TV timeout. Three U-M turnovers had led to six Spartans' points at that point, and the Wolverines were getting dominated on the glass.
Still, it was 18-14 when Glenn Robinson III made two free throws after being fouled by Branden Dawson, his second. Morgan picked up MSU went up 25-14 after a Beilein technical following a blown travel call on MSU's Keith Appling.
Stauskas, though, came up with a huge four-point play to keep the Wolverines within shouting distance. It was 27-20 Spartans at 7:59 when Caris LeVert scored his first two points on free throws.
U-M's defense had been better at that point, but the Spartans were shooting well. Of the eight shots they missed, too, they notched five offensive rebounds. Then MSU's Harris and Alvin Ellis drove inside for finishes that put the Spartans up 11. Stauskas answered again with three free throws after being fouled on a jump shot. It was 31-23 at that point, 31-24 after a Walton free throw.
The Spartans had 10 fouls at that point, and it could have been more. It was 36-26 at 3:36 with MSU, and a good amount of the Spartans' points had come in transition or on second chance points.
MSU continued to dominate the glass, getting several looks, but U-M didn't go away. Caris LeVert drove for a three-point play at 2:00, cutting the deficit to 36-29. U-M was in shouting distance despite Morgan and Horford playing only seven minutes and Bielfeldt in for 12.
The Spartans grabbed a nine-point halftime lead, 38-29, when Harris drove the lane and dunked against the Wolverines' 1-3-1 look.
Michigan shot only 31.8 percent from the floor in the first half and notched only two assists, turning it over six times. Stauskas led the Wolverines with 13 points and Walton Jr. added nine, LeVert eight.
MSU outrebounded the Wolverines 20-11, including nine on the offensive glass. Michigan State scored 12 points off six U-M turnovers.
The second half started with a Stauskas miss and a Payne finish inside, putting the Spartans back up by double digits. Michigan missed its first four shots, all jumpers, and MSU continued to pound the offensive glass. The Spartans scored the first seven to take a 44-29 lead at 17:10.
Only a Morgan finish slowed MSU's momentum. It wasn't enough. The lead ballooned to 17 twice, but went back down to 13 on a 4-0 run, the second bucket on a LeVert to Morgan finish.
U-M had a chance to cut it to 11, but an unforced turnover by Stauskas led to another MSU hoop in transition. Stauskas continued to struggle, missing two finishes at the rim, and the others weren't much better. Robinson III missed an eight-footer and it was 50-35 at 12:00.
Freshman Zak Irvin hit a triple that cut it to 12 at 11:45, but MSU went over the top of the 1-3-1 defense to Payne to push it back to 14. At that point the Wolverines were shooting only 29.7 percent from the floor.
U-M pulled within 12 and had two chances to whittle it further, but missed twice. Another offensive rebound at the other end - MSU"s 13TH - led to two Payne free throws and a 54-40 Michigan State advantage at 8:34. Glenn Robinson III, quiet throughout with four points and two rebounds through 30 minutes, finally scored to cut it to 12 at the second to last TV timeout.
Stauskas drove and missed badly after the timeout, making him 3-for-10 at that point. Morgan, though, scored on Michigan's next possession to cut it to 10, bringing the crowd alive.
MSU, though, continued to solve U-M's 1-3-1 zone. Dawson scored behind it again before Morgan answered on a drive and dish by Stauskas.
The two teams traded baskets until the four-minute mark. LeVert's finish that would have cut it to nine rimmed off with 3:30 to go, and Payne provided the dagger at 3:00 with a triple, his first of the game. The Spartans cruised from there.
Stauskas finished four-for-14 from the floor with 17 points. Walton added 11 and Morgan eight.