CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge
ANN ARBOR - Michigan State coach Tom Izzo wanted to hold the Michigan Wolverines under "eight or nine" 3-point field goals last night.
The ninth-ranked Spartans reached that goal and then some.
With a hand in their face for seemingly every shot, the Wolverines struggled to shoot from just about everywhere on the floor. The result was a 54-42 loss to rival MSU, UM's third straight against a ranked opponent and fourth loss in five games.
Salt was poured in many Ann Arbor wounds last night. In the game's waning moments, the sizable MSU portion of the 13,751 fans at sold-out Crisler Arena yelled "just like football" from the rafters, evoking memories of the Spartans' first gridiron victory at the Big House last fall since 1990.
The Wolverines (15-10, 5-7 Big Ten) were just 4-of-24 from 3-point range and shot 34.8 percent total.
"I thought we really did a great job of that," Izzo said of the Spartans' perimeter defense. "And yet, I thought Michigan had a few of them where if they go in then they'd get going a little bit."
UM trailed by 12 with 14:38 left but chipped away, thanks mostly to DeShawn Sims' inside play. Sims, who was recently relegated to bench duty, scored 12 of his 18 points after halftime, including six straight on a layup and two powerful dunks midway through the final half.
The closest the Wolverines came was four points with 4:48 left. They were down five with
2:06 to go but were forced to chuck shots from the outside that didn't go in.
MSU closed the game on a 7-0 run.
"We're better than the way we played when we were down four points," dejected UM coach John Beilein said.
The first half was even worse for the Wolverines. UM scored a season-low 15 points on 31.6 percent shooting and committed eight turnovers.
At least the Wolverines can take comfort in the fact that the Spartans have been shutting everyone down lately. With last night's performance, MSU (20-4, 10-2) has held three consecutive opponents under 50 points for the first time since 1951-52.
UM star Manny Harris, who was held to seven points on 2-of-10 shooting, gave the Spartans credit for taking the sting out of the Wolverines' offense.
"They just played great defense," Harris said. "I don't know how everybody else feels but I think that was one of the best defenses we've played against."
Sims said MSU "outhustled" his team.
"I can't explain why they did, but they did," Sims said.
The Spartans, playing without key contributor Raymar Morgan for the third straight game (illness), were led by Kalin Lucas with 15 points. Delvon Roe added 14 points and 10 rebounds.
MSU has won all seven of its true road games this year and is 6-0 as the visiting team in Big Ten contests.
Sims was the Wolverines' only player to score in double figures. UM has had a rough stretch lately, with losses against No. 1 Connecticut Saturday, at No. 16 Purdue Jan. 31 and at Ohio State Jan. 28.
Since Jan. 14, the Wolverines are 2-7.
"Obviously I want to speed this learning curve of what it takes to win, what it takes to win consistently at home," Beilein said. "The learning curve isn't as fast as I'd like to be. We understand our length and our depth are big issues."
Beilein rejected that UM's lone game against its in-state rival was a "must win," but: "At some time, when it comes to March and we're not close to wins and we're not 9-9 in the league or something like that, we won't be in [the NCAA tournament]."
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