EAST LANSING, Mich. — Conference road wins are always sweet. But, when they come against your in-state rivals, they are that and so much more.
On Saturday afternoon, forward Moritz Wagner recorded a career-high 27 points to help lead the Michigan Wolverines to the 82-72 win over the fourth-ranked Michigan State Spartans inside the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI.
Following a loss to the Purdue Boilermakers in their last outing by a single point, the Wolverines have shown that they can compete with the best of the best in the Big Ten Conference, and pick up wins in the process. The win over the Spartans was their eighth victory over their past nine games, and gives them two straight wins over their rivals.
As for the Spartans, they have struggled in their last three outings after a 14-game winning streak. A blowout loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes and an overtime win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights prefaced the loss to the Wolverines for the fourth-ranked Spartans.
The game was back-and-forth in the first half and into the second, as there were 11 ties and 13 lead changes. Zavier Simpson hit a go-ahead layup for the Wolverines with 14:28 to play in the game. Miles Bridges had a chance to tie it back up on the next possession, but he hit just one-of-two free throws, and Michigan looked to keep building on their lead.
Jon Teske added a layup after Bridges’ single point, but Michigan State kept within striking distance and looked to retake a lead of their own just minutes later.
With 8:31 to play in the game, Jaren Jackson Jr. hit a pair of free throws to give the Spartans a 55-54 lead. That was short-lived, as Wagner connected on a three point jumper for the Wolverines on the next possession to regain the lead for Michigan.
Wagner’s three pointer kicked off an 11-2 run for the visitors, stretching their lead over the Spartans to 65-57 with 5:08 to play. Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also got in on the action during the run for the Wolverines.
From there, Michigan would get timely free throw shooting from several of their starters to pad the lead and seal the deal on a big time road win for the Maize and Blue. With their 82-72 win over Michigan State, the Wolverines have won two straight over their rivals.
In just 27 minutes of action, Moritz Wagner had himself a career day against the Spartans on the road. He was 8-of-13 from the floor and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line, finishing with a career-best 27 points. He also pulled down four rebounds and blocked two shots.
Zavier Simpson added 16 points, and hit some timely free throws down the stretch to seal the deal. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman added 14 points, while Charles Matthews chipped in with 10 points.
Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. led the Spartans with 19 points apiece. Bridges added six rebounds and five assists, while Jackson Jr. had six blocks in the loss. Cassius Winston was the third Michigan State player in double-figures, racking up 11 points on Saturday afternoon.
Forward Nick Ward was held to just four points and five rebounds in 19 minutes of action. He was one of four players to accumulate four fouls for the Spartans.
Michigan State was held to just 3-of-13 shooting from three point range, while the Wolverines shot 6-of-15 from long range. Michigan also forced the Spartans into committing 18 turnovers, which they turned into 26 points.
After a 14-game winning streak, Michigan State (16-3, 4-2) have dropped two of their last three games. They have a five-day break in between games to get things sorted out and get back on track. Michigan State returns to the court on January 19th at home against the Indiana Hoosiers.
The win for Michigan (15-4, 4-2) was their eighth in their last nine outings. They will look to make it two straight wins when they take on the Maryland Terrapins on Monday night in Ann Arbor, MI.
– T. Bennett