What They're Saying About Michigan's Win Over MSU, Outright Big Ten Title
No. 2 Michigan Wolverines basketball (19-2, 14-2 Big Ten) notched a blowout victory over Michigan State (14-11, 8-11) Thursday night in Ann Arbor to grab the outright Big Ten regular-season title.
Here is a look around the internet at what they're saying about the Maize and Blue's big win and championship.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo made it clear on his postgame radio show he still wanted his pound — well, half pound — of flesh, and spoke as though he'd get it.
“We’re moving people around so much, and we’re going to move some more people around on Sunday,” he said.
“... It will be interesting. I’m looking forward to the game on Sunday. That’s all I’ll say.”
In other words, he expects to win. And sure, he might. On paper, the game essentially means nothing to the Wolverines, who likely clinched a No. 1 seed regardless of what happens the rest of the way. An MSU win might elicit a shrug or two, and similarities to an NBA team going into coast mode before the playoffs.
If there are any guys banged up, it might be a good time to give others extended minutes and rest the wounded for the postseason.
Don’t tell that to Juwan Howard, though. When we tried, he nearly spit out his water.
“Excuse me! I almost lost myself,” he said with a laugh. “I almost got out of character.
“Sunday does matter. I know on Sunday Michigan State will be prepared to compete, so we have to be ready to go out there and compete from start to finish. It’s not over; the season is not over.”
Their goal remains to be the last team standing on the first week of April, he reiterated.
In the grand scheme of things, Sunday means nothing in pursuit of that goal. It means a lot to Howard, though, one of the reasons he’s been so successful in the early going in following a legend.
It’s personal, and that will never change.
It’s not supposed to be easy to win a Big Ten championship. Michigan found out this week, going from handcuffed by Illinois to strip-searched by the Spartans for the opening 20 minutes. MSU forced eight first-half turnovers, combining their clutch and grab with U-M sloppiness.
Meanwhile, both teams made the three-point arc accessible as Tom Izzo’s dunk highlights. The Wolverines notched two threes in the first 20 minutes, the Spartans none. Michigan’s 39-28 halftime lead felt more like drug-free root canal survival than basketball artistry.
No matter. Big Ten title banners aren’t adorned with style summations or pretty points. Last men standing. No excuses. No exceptions.
Howard’s crew didn’t make any. They just dug in, reeled off a 10-0 run early in the second half, and played defense like they intended to make it a banner night.
And they did.
“Our guys earned it,” Howard assured. “They earned this Big Ten championship by the belief that they have for each other.”
There’s more to come, vowed the Wolverines.
Senior guard Chaundee Brown put it simply: “The job’s not finished.”
Long after the final basket and the last whistle, the Wolverines were celebrating the only way they know, with everyone involved. They slid across the confetti-slicked floor and danced at center court, Juwan Howard hopping in the middle. And then, one by one, the seniors received framed jerseys — all nine of them, from walk-ons to leader Isaiah Livers — because everybody, and every body, counts here.
At the end, it was inclusive and extremely conclusive. Michigan won the way it has so many times this season, no backing down, no more evidence required. The Wolverines captured their first Big Ten championship since 2014 with a 69-50 dismantling of Michigan State Thursday night at the Crisler Center.
This was a double-thumping because the second-ranked Wolverines (19-2) likely clinched a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while knocking their rivals back to the brink. The Spartans (14-11) will get another shot when the teams meet again Sunday in East Lansing, and Tom Izzo’s group will have to dig deeper to extend their 22-year Tournament streak.
For the Wolverines, a Big Ten title seemed incomprehensible when they were 25th in the preseason AP poll, eventually unranked, and picked sixth in the conference. There have been challenges, from the rough loss just two days earlier against Illinois to the 23-day COVID layoff, but now anything is possible. It wasn’t an easy ascent — even if they made it look that way at times — and certainly not a predicted ascent.
It’s 9:07 p.m. According to a hand count, the attendance in Crisler Center’s lower bowl for Michigan’s title-clinching party, including photographers, is 146. Howard goes around the court, waving to families in the seats and saying thank you. He holds up two fingers and points to them — that’s right, it only took two years.
Howard works his way around the floor, locking eyes in the crowd. He sees athletic director Warde Manuel and raises two hands. Manuel does the same.
Looking up into the top row of Section 114, Howard does a double-take. He leans forward, trying to make out a familiar figure. He extends his arm and points. John Beilein, sitting alongside his daughter, Seanna, points back at him.
Howard taps his chest, then claps. He turns to join the celebration, returning to his team, returning to his program.
When his team needed a spark 48 hours after a tough loss, Michigan coach Juwan Howard turned to a rival: Draymond Green, the NBA standout and former Michigan State star.
Howard said he used a video of Green trash-talking the Wolverines to help motivate his team prior to its 69-50 win over the Spartans on Thursday, sealing the program's first Big Ten title since 2014.
In the video, per players, Green said he'd hoped Michigan would "never" win a game, showcasing the intensity of the rivalry between the two schools.
"He had a nice little video I wanted the guys to listen to," Howard said after the game. "I think they really enjoyed watching it and listening to the words that were said."
The former Fab Five star and second-year coach didn't reveal specifics about the video or its origins, but his players said it provided a boost for a team that entered Thursday's game hoping to forget about Tuesday's 76-53 home loss to an Illinois squad that played without Ayo Dosunmu.
"It felt amazing and then it's even sweeter to do it against Michigan State," said Mike Smith, a grad transfer from Columbia who had nine points in the win, his first Michigan-Michigan State rivalry game. "Coach showed us a video of Draymond Green. He was just saying he wished we would never win a game ever. That just shows how aggressive this matchup is."
The Wolverines made two Final Four appearances in seven years before Juwan Howard returned to his alma mater in the spring of 2019, so it’s not like he took over a moribund program. But given the long history of former NBA players returning to college and falling flat (especially at their alma maters), Howard’s impact has been remarkable. Michigan was picked to finish sixth in the Big Ten in the preseason last fall, but now it is heading for a No. 1 seed. Howard also has the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which includes three players who were just named McDonald’s All-Americans.
This game didn’t become a blowout without a series of smaller swings going Michigan’s way before the floodgates opened and the wheels came off (pick your cliché of choice). For MSU to have any chance to beat Michigan, some bounces have to go the Spartans’ way. And MSU has to make those bounces go their way.
MSU trailed 18-16 when it had a dreadful possession and Rocket Watts launched a 3-pointer deep in the shot clock. Marcus Bingham Jr. picked up a foul on the rebound attempt and Isaiah Livers hit both free throws. That’s a small swing that MSU can’t let happen.
Then, with MSU trailing 24-18, Livers missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line. The ball took a tough bounce, Michigan got the rebound and scored. Julius Marble then took a questionable shot against Hunter Dickinson and Franz Wagner hit a 3 in transition the other way. MSU can’t let that sequence happen.
With MSU trailing 28-23, Brandon Johns turned the ball over, Aaron Henry missed a difficult shot under the basket and Michigan scored on the break.
Then there’s Aaron Henry's second foul, which changed things considerably.
In the second half, with MSU down 39-32 and showing some fight, Michigan missed a shot, Dickinson dove on the floor to get the rebound (while Watts was slow to the ball) and it led to a Wagner 3. Just a huge moment.
The Wolverines took command from there. But all of those little swings created the double-digit margin that led to the big run for Michigan. MSU has to win its share of those little swings on Sunday.
In just his second year as head coach of his alma mater, Howard has Michigan positioned to secure a No. 1 seed and enter the NCAA Tournament with expectations of a lengthy stay in Indiana.
Michigan throttled Michigan State 69-50 to clinch the Big Ten regular-season championship, with Franz Wagner and Hunter Dickinson leading the way. Given the early returns, it's easy to extrapolate the small sample size and assume this is the first of multiple Big Ten regular-season crowns for Howard, especially given the combination of veterans, transfers and young talent all meshing together here on the 2021 Wolverines. We have spent much of the season viewing the sport through a Gonzaga-Baylor prism, but Michigan has returned from a COVID-19 pause with only one misstep so far and remains among the top picks to win the national championship.
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