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Published: Sunday, 1/18/2004

Wolverines fall to MSU

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
MSU s Paul Davis blocks a shot by UM s Chris Hunter. Davis scored 22 points. MSU s Paul Davis blocks a shot by UM s Chris Hunter. Davis scored 22 points.
AL GOLDIS / AP Enlarge

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan entered yesterday s game as the top field goal shooting team in the Big Ten at 46.5 percent.

That number certainly will drop after the Wolverines shot a season-low 36.2 percent in a 71-54 loss to rival Michigan State before 14,759 at the Breslin Center.

“Certainly we struggled to score this afternoon,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said. “I think our turnovers were a big factor. We had 12 in the first half and 22 for the game. I thought we competed and had it within striking distance at moments, but they were too tough today. They were the better team.”

Michigan has been in an offensive funk the last two conference games while losing to Indiana (26 of 68, 38.2 percent) and Michigan State (17 of 47).

The Wolverines (10-4, 1-2 Big Ten) have dropped three of their last five overall. And they lost to the Spartans (7-7, 2-1) for the ninth time in the last 11 games and remained winless on MSU s home court since a 76-64 triumph on Jan. 13, 1996.

“We take our hats off to them and I certainly hope we can regroup,” Amaker said.

Paul Davis scored 22 points for Michigan State, which has rebounded to reach .500 after going 0-6 against a brutal nonconference schedule that included losses to national powers Kansas, Duke, Oklahoma, Kentucky, UCLA and defending NCAA champion Syracuse.

The Spartans shot 54.8 percent (23 of 42) en route to their seventh home win in eight games. MSU has won 80 of its last 85 regular-season games at the Breslin Center.

“This was a big win for us against a quality team,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “We got some points off our defense. We had some steals. I thought we did a pretty good job defensively because those four perimeter guys really have an offensive mind and our guys didn t give them an inch.”

Courtney Sims basket at 14:19 of the opening half gave Michigan a 16-13 lead, but the Wolverines managed just seven points and two field goals - a 3-pointer and 2-pointer - the rest of the way as the Spartans grabbed a 32-23 halftime lead.

“Once we got the lead there, we had three or four turnovers in a row and Michigan State, being the good team they are, capitalized on them,” said struggling sophomore point guard Daniel Horton, who led Michigan with a season-high 20 points but made just 5-of-15 shots and committed six turnovers. “That really put us in a big hole at the half.”

It didn t help that Michigan s Mr. Everything, senior swingman Bernard Robinson Jr., had his worst offensive game of the year, scoring a season-low five points on 2-for-8 shooting.

“Bernard s a senior; he s been our best player, our leader and our MVP so far this year,” Amaker said. “This was a bad time for him to have a tough afternoon.”

Robinson, who leads the Wolverines in points, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes played, was held under double figures for only the third time this season. Had had six rebounds and a team-high seven turnovers.

“I don t remember getting an open shot or an open look all day,” said Robinson, who had been averaging 14.2 points per game. “I think they played great defense against me.”

Said Izzo: “Robinson has had an incredible year. He s really been playing well. I don t know if it was all us or part him, but I thought we did a pretty good job on him.”

Michigan also struggled from the free-throw line, hitting only 61.9 percent (13 of 21). The Spartans shot 71.4 percent (20 of 28) and made 14 of 19 in the second half. Davis, a 6-11 sophomore center, was 9-for-11 from the free-throw line and also had three blocks.

“I think Davis is an outstanding player,” Amaker said. “He got too good of position on us on his initial post-ups and we helped him get to the foul line.”

The road certainly doesn t get any easier for Michigan, which will plays five of its next seven away from home. The Wolverines will be at Wisconsin on Wednesday.

NOTE: Former Michigan State freshman point guard Brandon Cotton, a former McDonald s All-American, has been released from his scholarship and has transferred to the University of Detroit.



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