Sixty-four miles separate the basketball centers of Michigan and Michigan State, but no games separated their statuses in the Big Ten. The winner of one of the more highly-contested contests in college sports would be the 2019 regular season champion.
A contest like this is usually decided by the team that is able to bring enough toughness and grit but also keep their composure in these moments. Michigan State certainly had their fair share of sloppiness in the first half, but more than anything Michigan was able to excel and capitalize off those misfortunes.
Zavier Simpson was able to facilitate opportunities on the offensive end, putting up five assists in the first half. Jordan Poole also looked prepared to put up big numbers after a lackluster performance the last time the two rivals faced, contributing 10 points in the first half. For the Spartans, their Wooden Award finalist, Cassius Winston, was not able to get going at all in front of his home crowd.
In total, the first half was really the Ignas Brazdeikis show. The freshman forward lit up the field, converting all five scoring attempts, including two beyond the arc, for 12 points. At its largest point, the Wolverines lead got up to 11 points in the first half, but Michigan State went into the break trailing by a gracious six.
At the end of the day, the calendar still reads March, so Tom Izzo should have been expected to prepare his team to battle on their senior night, with postseason implications on the line.
It wasn’t necessarily a complete 180 to the common eye. It seemed Michigan certainly did not explode out the gate offensively, but they were not a team that lived or died by the three so it did not seem like such a pivotal point in the game. Statistically, the Spartans shot marginally better beyond the arc in the second half.
The two key players were deciding factors, Ignas Brazdeikis and Cassius Winston. Right before the second media timeout of the period, Brazdeikis picked up his third foul of the game. At this time, the Wolverines had a five point lead, but it wouldn’t get any greater for the rest of the night.
The town was too big for two stars, so Winston was able to light it up as Michigan’s man of the night went out. The junior guard put up 16 points in the second half and showed some of his Wooden Award worth. On his senior night, Kenny Goins had an explosion on the boards in the second half. Not allowing many second chance points for Michigan on the boards, the Spartan had 16 rebounds on the night.
Brazdeikis’ exit triggered a 20-2 run by the Spartans, which John Beilein attempted to stifle it by reinstating the forward, only for him to pick up his fourth and fifth fouls with more than five minutes left. This run really left the Wolverines in the dust and Michigan State clinched their second-straight Big Ten championship.
With that result, Michigan State will be first, Purdue finishes second with the same record (16-4), and Michigan third.
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