For the second time in five days, the Michigan basketball team was embarrassed on its home court by a rival. This time, the opponent was No. 10 Michigan State, and the Wolverines were throttled from start to finish.
A day after a drubbing that saw the Spartans lead by as much as 30 and empty the bench well before the final buzzer sounded, we look at the five key plays from the game.
1) Michigan State starts out hot
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after the game that he doesn’t want the Spartans to be known as a 3-point shooting team, but the Spartans certainly looked the part early and often on Saturday. Before Michigan’s offense fell off the rails, it was already in a hole thanks to Michigan State’s three 3-pointers on three attempts in the game’s opening two minutes.
“I thought the execution we had offensively early, getting (Bryn) Forbes shots,” Izzo said. “I thought that was the difference in this game.”
Michigan State opened the game with a perfectly executed set to get Forbes an open look as Derrick Walton gets stuck in a double-screen by Matt Costello and Deyonta Davis. The next MSU bsaket is a transition look for Eron Harris that occurs two seconds into the shot clock over Walton again.
The second triple by Forbes is a mistake by Duncan Robinson who gets screened taking the wrong route as Forbes flares off the screen for an open triple.
2) Michigan has a chance, but misses it
After falling behind by 18 early, the Wolverines showed a little bit of fight toward the end of the first half, finally picking up stops on defense through a zone defense and cutting the deficit to 11.
But with the lead cut to 11, Michigan just couldn’t get over the hump. The Wolverines just missed out on a couple of transition opportunities and then come up empty on offense, first with a missed runner in the lane by Duncan Robinson then with a pair of pick-and-pop three-point attempts by Mark Donnal.
The Wolverines needed offense in this stretch to finally cut into the lead, but just came up short.
“We’re having trouble stopping people — elite teams. We’re going to have to out-score them,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “That’s the only way we can beat elite teams right now … we’ve got to be on fire.”
3) Michigan State pours it on to end the half
While Michigan’s zone look had temporary success against the Spartans, it was short-lived. Michigan State — which leads the nation in assist rate — moved the ball to perfection against the Wolverines’ 1-3-1 zone to come away with two open triples for Bryn Forbes — close to automatic points, as he scored 2.23 points per shot in this game — to stretch the lead back to 16.
“We’re ready to play (zone) at different times during the season and for different things,” Beilein said. “We couldn’t stop them man-to-man, and then we went to zone for a short bit, and we probably should have gotten out of it after it worked a few times.”
The zone did seem to speed the Spartans up on offense for the first few possessions, but there’s no question that Michigan stuck with the zone for too long. After a couple timeouts and stoppages, Michigan State had a few wrinkles queued up and executed them perfectly.
4) Michigan State dominates inside
After draining 10 3-pointers and only two layups in the first half, the Spartans showcased their balance on offense in the second. They made it a priority to feed forward Matt Costello in the paint and he produced against Mark Donnal.
“I think that’s what I’m proudest of,” Izzo said. “I’m worried a little bit about becoming a 3-point shooting team, I don’t want that. We can be a shooting team … but we’ve got to be balanced. We have to be able to go inside and get it outside.
“I think that was very key for our team to understand. That we need everybody, and Matt did a great job.”
5) Spartans pour it on
After falling behind early, the Wolverines actually kept pace with Michigan State. It wasn’t close, but it wasn’t over either. But with just over 11 minutes to go in the game, the Spartans went on an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 27.
Michigan closed the gap in garbage time, but suffered its second blowout loss in a week, putting its postseason goals in jeopardy.
“Our kids are trying everything that they’ve got. Everything they’ve got,” Beilein said. “I’ll tell you the same thing I said at Indiana, they’re so much better than us, you guys have to be looking at that, and we have to get better.
“We’ve just got to get better through improvement, through maturation, through our guys getting older and avoiding injuries, then we can play. It’s really hard right now.”