Sunday’s afternoon showdown between Michigan and Michigan State was everything you would expect from a rivalry game featuring two top-10 teams.
No matter who you were rooting for, there was frustration. At times, the quality of play was below average. More often than not, the officiating was horrendous – on both sides.
Yet, at the end, both teams had a chance to win, but Trey Burke proved to be the difference in Michigan’s 58-57 victory.
With 4:36 remaining in the second half, Michigan led 52-42, and Michigan State’s offense was nowhere to be found. Behind Adreian Payne’s freakish athletic ability, Gary Harris’ clutch 3-point shooting, and some incomprehensible calls against Michigan, the Spartans went on a 14-4 run and tied the game at 56 with 54 seconds remaining.
Still tied at 56 with under 30 seconds remaining, Appling brought the ball across half court, and seemed to be looking for Izzo to call a timeout when Burke poked the ball away and raced down the court to give Michigan a 58-56 lead.
After Nix split a pair of free throws, MSU fouled Mitch McGary with eight seconds left. McGary missed the front end of a 1-and-1, Payne grabbed the rebound and Izzo called a timeout with 4.9 seconds left.
Coming out of the timeout, Harris received the inbound pass from Appling and was doubled. Harris tried to pass to Appling in the corner, but it was stolen by Burke, sealing the Spartans’ fate.
Burke’s play at the end, and really the whole game, was the reason Michigan was able to revenge it’s blowout loss in East Lansing a few weeks ago. Burke finished with 21 points, eight assists, five steals, and four rebounds vaulting his name back into the National Player of the Year race.
Here’s what to take away:
– The most glaring negative was MSU’s numerous turnovers. In total, the Spartans committed 18 turnovers compared to Michigan’s seven. The worst turnover of them all was probably Appling’s with 26 seconds left, but there numerous others. Multiple times in the first half, MSU threw the ball away inexcusably. MSU’s starters committed 17 turnovers, led by Nix with six. Even when MSU wasn’t turning the ball over, its offense could be described as chaotic at best, especially when Harris wasn’t on the floor.
– Appling’s woes continued again, as he went 3-for-9 from the field and 0-for-3 from behind the arc. In his last five games, the point guard has connected on only 12 of his 48 shots, including two treys in 22 attempts. In that same amount of time, Appling has also committed 14 turnovers compared to 13 assists. There were times this afternoon against Michigan when he looked out of control and a fraction of what he could be. The talent is there, but it seems like something is going on inside Appling’s head.
– Because of Appling’s struggles over the past few weeks, Branden Dawson’s lackluster performances will go overlooked by many. Dawson scored two points and committed three turnovers in 24 minutes of playing time. Since scoring in double figures in 5-of-6 games starting with the Wisconsin game, Dawson has scored four, eight, eight, and two points respectively in his next four games. His aggressive nature seems to have disappeared for some reason, and it should be a big concern for the Spartans.
– Gary Harris and Adreian Payne continued to show why some NBA scouts have raved about their potential. Harris is MSU’s most consistent scorer and he continues to show up big when MSU needs a bucket most. In Payne’s last four games, he is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds. Also, he’s demonstrated the ability to stretch the defense with his outside shooting, which should only help create space for others down the stretch. The duo were the only Spartans in double figures against Michigan, with Payne scoring 17 and Harris 16.
– Despite the fact that MSU played awful, they were still in a position to win the game. The Spartans looked to be clearly the better team in the first half, and led 31-28 at halftime, but they struggled offensively in the second half. MSU ultimately came up one point short, but the Spartans battled back from down 10 in a hostile environment. If the Spartans can play that bad and almost win, it has to mean something, right?
With a Big Ten regular season title seemingly out of reach (Indiana clinched a share of the title and will clinch it outright with one more win), MSU must now focus on playing its best basketball come tournament time. The Spartans have two home games remaining (Wisconsin 3/7, Northwestern 3/10) and then the Big Ten tournament.
MSU has all the pieces to make a national championship run, but the Spartans need Appling and Dawson to return to form. While Payne and Harris are providing consistent offense, missing Dawson’s aggressive play has been hurtful. Dawson’s overall offensive skill set is raw, but his athletic ability is off the charts. Even without Dawson’s normal play, Appling could still lead this team to a national championship. Appling doesn’t need to score in double figures, he just has to run the offense without committing turnovers and make enough shots to force defenses to respect him. While this is MSU’s first three-game losing streak since late January 2011, it isn’t time to panic. There’s no shame in losing to Indiana, Ohio State, or Michigan, but those are all games MSU should’ve won.