Five takeaways: Michigan basketball vs. Michigan State

Michigan basketball hasn’t started the year very well, but it entered Saturday afternoon’s rivalry tilt with MSU undefeated in Big Ten play.

Playing in East Lansing is a different animal, however.

Juwan Howard had not yet won a game in the Breslin Center, so the Wolverines entered the game looking to break that streak.

To call the outset of the game a slugfest would be generous; both defenses came to play, while the offensive style of play was ugly. The game was knotted at 14-all, but MSU went on a 7-0 run to take and extend the lead. Tarris Reed Jr. answered with a layup, but MSU responded with a Joey Hauser 3-pointer.

Michigan cut it back to seven, but a foul with time expiring in the first half allowed MSU to take a nine-point lead at the break. The Wolverines had just 18 points in the opening 20 minutes.

The Spartans opened up the second half with a 3-pointer and followed up with two, extending the lead to 14. Hunter Dickinson and Jett Howard both got a little offense going, but MSU kept answering whenever Michigan cut into the deficit.

Finally, Michigan battling back. Between getting to the foul line, getting opportune stops and starting to hit buckets, the Wolverines cut the deficit to 4. But after going 6 of 8, Michigan went on a four-minute field goal drought — the worst possible time.

Michigan State ultimately beat Michigan, 59-53. Here are our five takeaways from the game.

Defense came to play ... on both sides

Nick King-Lansing State Journal

While the Michigan Wolverines scored on their first possession, points weren’t easy to come by. Both teams really struggled to get their offenses going, but the impressive thing for the maize and blue was that was the case, given that the defense has steadily improved in recent weeks after looking shaky to start the year.

While MSU outrebounded the maize and blue, Michigan certainly was opportunistic when it came to rebounds, only allowing the Spartans one attempt at the basket. That’s not customary in this game, particularly in East Lansing.

Where the Wolverines were not good was stopping baskets in transition. The Spartans had 10 fast-break points in the first half. Both teams shot under 40%.

It generally wasn't pretty

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The defense is one thing, but neither team looked particularly sharp in this one. While both defenses played solid ball, both also missed opportunities and good looks.

MSU came alive late in the first half, but Michigan never really found a rhythm offensively and had too many mistakes.

Where Michigan was truly abysmal was from beyond the arc. It only managed to make 15% from 3. Beyond that, the Wolverines couldn’t find a route to high-percentage shots. With everything contested, there was little they could do to even the score. Kobe Bufkin added some relief down the stretch, but playing from behind, it was too little, too late.

They really needed one player to step up, and no one did.

Michigan needed more from Hunter Dickinson

Nick King-Lansing State Journal

Michigan doesn’t have a lot of offensive options at the moment, so what it cannot do is live through a game in which Hunter Dickinson doesn’t carry the team.

He was essentially nonexistent in the first half, scoring four points.

Dickinson came alive in the second half, scoring 14, but it was still a far cry from what was needed. He finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds.

That wouldn’t be a good stat line for a role player or if another player was stepping up in lieu of Dickinson in a game like this. Michigan needed its best player to play big — think Moe Wagner in this series — yet, he faded into the background far too often — thanks in large part to MSU’s defense. But still, he needed to overcome MSU’s game plan and struggled to do so.

Turnovers were a massive problem

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

MSU started the game by turning the ball over with regularity, but Michigan wasn’t going to idly let that happen, turning the ball over with impunity afterward.

It’s one thing to miss shots, but another not to get shots off entirely in a hostile venue. Michigan only turned the ball over three times against Penn State, yet turned it over 10 times in this one — exceeding the average of nine turnovers a game by a wide margin.

We are who we thought they were

Kirthmon Dozier-Detroit Free Press

The undefeated in Big Ten play metric was nice while it lasted, but Michigan is still a very flawed team.

The roster doesn’t have a lot of scorers and is incomplete as a whole. Though comprised of good players, they aren’t complementary, which shows in a game like this. When Michigan needed a bucket, there was no one it could count on. When Michigan needed a stop, it seldom could get it, as MSU matched the Wolverines’ energy.

While the team will have certainly learned some lessons from this one, MSU is also an unranked team, and Michigan needed this one to prove to itself that it could rebound after the ugly loss to Central Michigan in December. However, once MSU built the lead to double digits, it made it incredibly difficult for the Wolverines to claw back into this one. They tried and got it into two possessions, but it just wasn’t enough.

Story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire