Michigan State basketball runs out of gas in second half of loss to Michigan, 69-50

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Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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For a fleeting moment Thursday night, it appeared Michigan State basketball was about to make it a game against No. 2 Michigan. Could it be another second-half comeback for a third top-5 upset in eight days?

Julius Marble II sealed Hunter Dickinson’s drive to start the period, then hit a hook shot over the Wolverines’ freshman center at the other end. Aaron Henry then drove around Dickinson for an up-and-under layup that hung on the rim seemingly forever. The Spartans had momentum and trailed by seven.

Maybe it would have been better if the ball kept bouncing.

The Wolverines ran away with the game from there.

Inches away from another loose ball recover, Dickinson hit the floor to wrestle it from a bent-over Rocket Watts’ hands. The Spartans watched it find its way to Franz Wagner for a deep 3-pointer to spark a 10-0 counterpunch, punctuated by a ferocious dunk by Dickinson, that MSU couldn’t recover from. Michigan poured it to make it a 25-4 takeover en route to a 69-50 loss for the Spartans at Crisler Center.

Michigan Wolverines guard Eli Brooks goes for the loose ball against Michigan State Spartans forward Aaron Henry on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
Michigan Wolverines guard Eli Brooks goes for the loose ball against Michigan State Spartans forward Aaron Henry on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

MSU (14-11, 8-10 Big Ten) struggled to find much in their legs, shooting just 36.4% overall and missed all nine of their 3-point attempts while getting outrebounded, 34-28. They allowed the Wolverines to shoot 50%, including 7 of 16 from 3-point range.

MSU hosts Michigan in the regular-season finale on Sunday at Breslin Center in East Lansing. Tipoff is 4:30 p.m. on CBS.

The Spartans have lost the last two to the Wolverines (19-2, 14-2), who clinched their first Big Ten regular-season title since 2014 and officially ended MSU’s three-year reign as league champ with the win.

Dead legs

Henry finished with 14 points as the only Spartan to score in double figures in their sixth game in 13 days. However, the junior forward missed his final six shots in the second half to finished 6 of 15 shooting. He also committed four of the Spartans’ 12 turnovers.

Joshua Langford, whom coach Tom Izzo said struggled to play through Tuesday’s win over Indiana, made just 2 of 10 shots and one rebound. Gabe Brown missed his only two shot attempts and grabbed just four boards.

[ Early highlight: Aaron Henry dunks all over Michigan's Isaiah Livers with authority ]

And Watts, who got the start at point guard, continued his rough play with six points on 3 of 8 shooting and two turnovers. Izzo benched him, after not getting the loose ball, for the rest of the game.

The Wolverines, playing their fourth game in eight days, went up by as many as 28 in the second half, prompting Izzo to pull the rest of his starters.

Michigan Wolverines guard Eli Brooks scores against Michigan State Spartans guard Joshua Langford on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.
Michigan Wolverines guard Eli Brooks scores against Michigan State Spartans guard Joshua Langford on Thursday, March 4, 2021 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

Soft middle

It started with U-M’s Mike Smith and Eli Brooks attacking MSU’s guards off the dribble to score the first seven points of the game and combine for the Wolverines’ first 11.

Then, Dickinson, the 7-foot-1 freshman dominated Thomas Kithier in a 2-minute stretch for three buckets, one of them a three-point play, by backing down the Spartans’ reserve forward into the lane with ease and scoring with his left hand as Kithier tried to stop his right. Those seven points put the Wolverines ahead, 18-10, with 9:45 left in the half.

MSU scored the next six to pull within two, but U-M rebuilt its lead with layups from Brooks and Franz Wagner, then a 3-pointer from Wagner.

Henry drew Dickinson’s second foul and finished a three-point play with 4:07 left before the half. But Brandon Johns hit a tip-in at the other end, Wagner collected his own miss for a layup and another Johns layup, blowing by Joey Hauser for the bucket to help U-M go up, 30-23, at halftime.

Michigan had 20 of its 26 points in the paint in the first half. Dickinson had eight of his 14 points in the first half and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. Wagner scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the second half, making 4 of 6 3-pointers.

Brooks had all nine of his points and Smith four of his nine in the first half.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball runs out of gas in loss to Michigan, 69-50