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Michigan

MSU walks on UM

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Daniel Horton's absence doomed Michigan.

Minus the suspended junior point guard, the Wolverines were forced to play junior walk-on Dani Wohl, who lasted 11 minutes in his first career start before falling ill.

That left another junior walk-on, Ashtyn Bell, to handle the ball-handling duties.

That didn't work well for the Wolverines, either.

Michigan State's relentless defensive pressure forced 23 Michigan turnovers last night and the 15th-ranked Spartans came up with 11 steals to whip the Wolverines 64-53 at the Breslin Center.

Horton, UM's second-leading scorer and assist man, did not make the trip. He was suspended indefinitely by coach Tommy Amaker on Tuesday after being charged with a single misdemeanor count of domestic violence against his girlfriend. His playing status remains uncertain.

"We missed Daniel a lot," sophomore shooting guard Dion Harris said.

"They were pressuring us every time we got the ball and sometimes they had two or three guys coming after us.

"It really hurt that we didn't have another veteran guy out there to help bring the ball up. We had a pretty inexperienced backcourt out there."

Michigan State (13-3, 5-1 Big Ten) has won 11 of its last 12 games against Michigan (12-8, 3-3), including seven in a row at home. The Wolverines haven't won at the Breslin Center since Jan. 13, 1996.

Injury-riddled Michigan, which jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead to start the game before falling quickly behind 10-7, has dropped three in a row since a season-high six-game winning streak.

The Wolverines' 23 turnovers were just two shy of their season high of 25, set against Iowa on Jan. 5.

"I think they really took advantage of our [thin] bench at times," Amaker said. "Their pressure and their depth really wore us down.

There were times where they forced some turnovers, and there were times, quite honestly, where we just gave it away.

"We have to get tougher and better with the ball, and to give it up so easily."

Maurice Ager scored 18 points for the Spartans, who led just 28-22 at the intermission. However, Michigan State scored the first eight points of second half and led 52-35 with nine minutes remaining and coasted to the victory, which improved its home record to 9-0.

"I thought the difference, in all honesty, was the start of the second half," Amaker said. "We got out really slowly for whatever reason, and they got to a double-digit lead and that put us back on our heels."

The Spartans, who improved to 13-1 when leading at halftime, play No. 1 Illinois at home Tuesday after a nonleague tune-up against Oakland tomorrow.

"I thought we played very well defensively, and very poor

offensively," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I think Michigan played awfully hard and deserves some credit."

The Spartans held UM which played four walk-ons overall - to nine field goals while forcing 10 turnovers in the opening half.

But Michigan State struggled on offense with 17 turnovers. Paul Davis, despite playing on a badly sprained ankle, had 12 points off the bench for MSU, while Alan Anderson added 10.

The Spartans outrebounded the Wolverines 35-25.

"Offensively, the turnovers really hurt us," Izzo said. "We would pull down a rebound and immediately throw it away. We need to be getting better.

"If we play like that in a couple of days, we are going to set a North American loss record, and I don't want to be part of that."

Harris and Courtney Sims had 12 points each for Michigan, while Chris Hunter added 10 after missing the previous five games with a sprained ankle. "We broke down a lot, obviously, in the second half with transition buckets," Amaker said.

The Wolverines will play at Purdue on Sunday.

Contact Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.

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