ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan's basketball team left the court last night to the cheers of, “Just like last year,” and “We own Crisler.”
It was their court. It wasn't their fans. It was the truth.
Michigan State defeated the Wolverines by 51 last year at the Breslin Center (114-63). It was the worst loss in UM basketball history. Last night, the fifth-ranked Spartans won by only 27, 91-64.
Are the Wolverines gaining on their in-state rival? Not by any means.
They were totally outplayed at MSU last year. They were humiliated in Crisler Arena last night, trailing 74-30 at one point.
“Last year we came out and played with a lot of energy at the Breslin, but today it almost looked like we quit,” said Michigan junior forward Chris Young. “We saw all of those Michigan State fans in the rafters cheering all kinds of crazy things and some guys felt we might just as well quit.
“I'm incredibly disappointed. I don't even want to be here (at the post-game press conference) and show my face. I would rather go home and hide under my bed.”
This marked the first time ever that the Spartans defeated Michigan (9-10, 3-5) six consecutive times. The average margin of those six triumphs is 22 points.
MSU (17-2, 6-2) went on a 24-0 first-half run that was remarkable in two respects, the Spartans' uncanny shooting and Michigan's uncanny lack of defense. At the end of the monster breakout, MSU was shooting 73 percent from the field to Michigan's 18 percent. The Spartans led 50-18. It lasted 6:43. Michigan squandered 12 consecutive possessions.
MSU led 56-27 at the intermission, shooting 66.7 percent from the field to Michigan's 21.4 percent.
“We could have gone on a 24-0 run, but we had people quit,” Young said. “All you have to do is walk out and look at the scoreboard. You can't quit. When you do, that's what happens.”
UM coach Brian Ellerbe said Young didn't mean what he said.
“He's upset and I'm sure he doesn't mean it, but he's an in-state kid and you probably caught him at a very difficult time. I'm sure he didn't mean that,” Ellerbe said.
“They played great. They were determined, very talented and were clicking on all cylinders. I don't know if anyone could have beaten them tonight. They played on an extremely high level and came in here and gave it to us.”
In Michigan's defense, or lack thereof, Michigan State might have been at its best, certainly this season.
The Spartans shot 57.9 percent for the game and outrebounded Michigan 42-24. Defensively, MSU was impregnable. UM's 33.9 shooting percentage on its home court was a combination of the Spartans' defense and Michigan's inability to run any type of set offense.
“I really thought it would be a great game, but we shot better than I ever thought we could and the defense was the best we've played in a couple of years,” said MSU coach Tom Izzo. “There's a couple of things that might come out of this thing and I would caution you that we are not back to normal and Michigan is not in the tank.
“We could have not played better in the first half. It was our night. There's no way they quit. Our shots were going in and theirs were not. Our defense should get as much credit as anything. It was definitely maybe our best game of the year because of the way we played at both ends of the court.”
In the matchup between two former high school rivals, LaVell Blanchard of Michigan and MSU's Jason Richardson, Blanchard finished with a game-high 27 points while Richardson led five Spartans in double figures with 17.
“The score tells it all. He won. What do you think?” Blanchard said. “This is just heart-breaking. It's our cross-town rival. Give them all the respect in the world. They beat us bad.”