Spartan coach Tom Izzo had his team primed for Tuesday night's showdown and the game reminded me of the pregame speech Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine gave near the end of the movie Rudy.
"You all know what you have to do," Devine said. "No one, and I mean no one, comes into our house and pushes us around."
It was the Spartans (21-4) who did the pushing around, using senior forward Derrick Nix and a pair of freshmen, to muscle the ball past the Wolverines (21-4). Michigan State out-rebounded Michigan, 41-30, and had a 14-point lead, 38-24, at halftime.
Spartan Formula for Success
Izzo's teams have traditionally featured strong rebounding, solid defense and an inside-outside offense. Two guards - freshman Denzel Valentine and junior Keith Appling - led the Spartans in rebounding with nine and seven respectively. Freshman forward Matt Costello, who played only 11 minutes, had six rebounds.
MSU's defense shut down the passing lanes and forced Michigan to commit 16 turnovers, while the Spartans turned the ball over only eight times. Sophomore guard Trey Burke lead the Wolverines in scoring with 18 points, but he received no support from the suffix twosome of Glen Robinson III (two points) and Tim Hardaway Jr. (two points).
While Michigan's offense suffered its greatest scoring imbalance of the season, Michigan State spread the wealth on offense. Freshman guard Gary Harris led the Spartans with 18 points, Nix had 14, Appling had 11 and sophomore guard Branden Dawson finished with 10.
Cannot Beat Breslin
You cannot beat Breslin Center as a venue for college basketball. Spartan fans are, putting it nicely, nuts about their team.
You could easily tag Michigan State the "Duke of the Northern Kingdom" in college basketball, when they play a home game. The Izzone section of students was deafening against the visiting Wolverines.
History tells us the Spartans are almost impossible to beat at Breslin Center. They established a Big Ten record in 2002 after winning 53 consecutive home game, are 34-8 in conference games at Breslin in the last five years and 6-0 at home in the Big Ten this season.
Michigan State is positioned to finish 8-1 or 9-0 at home and 6-3 on the road. A 14-4 mark will probably win at least a share of the Big Ten title. It's a competitive year with five conference teams among the top 20 in NCAA college basketball.
Michigan Needs to Rebound
Michigan needs to rebound from an embarassing loss to their in-state rival. They have lost four Big Ten games - all on the road - and need to regroup for a late season charge into the conference and NCAA tournaments.
Michigan needs to rebound, because they gave the Spartans too many second shots at the basket. Wolverine coach John Beilein believes his team needs to make adjustments in every phase of their game.
"There were so many things we played poorly in, it's hard to put my finger on it," Beilein said. "But Michigan State was excellent today."
The Spartans were excellent and sit atop the Big Ten at 10-2, while Michigan sits in fourth place at 8-4. The rematch is at U-M's Crisler Arena on Saturday afternoon, March 2. Circle it on the calendar because I don't expect a 23-point difference in the final score of that game.