EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan State basketball team sent its in-state rival a resounding message Tuesday night at the Breslin Center: Not so fast.
The eighth-ranked Spartans proved they’re not ready to cede their alpha status just yet with a 75-52 stomping of No. 4 Michigan.
With the eyes of the basketball country lasered onto East Lansing, an upstart Wolverines team with three freshmen starters wilted as MSU gave its foundation-rattling crowd of 14,797 an all-night party.
MSU (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) opened a double-digit lead midway through the first half and extended it to 31 before emptying its bench.
"Michigan State really has an excellent team," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I’ve believed that all year long, and they showed that tonight. Obviously, that was the worst we’ve played in a long, long time. ... There’s so many things we did poorly, it’s hard to put my finger on one thing."
The loss dropped the Wolverines (21-4, 8-4) two games behind league-leading MSU and marked their latest in a parade of league road losses — none of the previous three stung quite like this.
A year after sharing the Big Ten regular-season title with MSU, the Wolverines hoped this was the year they finally surpassed their rivals to the north.
Instead, this was a start-to-finish nightmare, the night ending with the crowd switching between chants of "Over-rated," "Little Sister," and "YOU OFF" — a jab at the Wolverines’ "WE ON" warmup shirts.
"We probably played our best game in three years, and they probably played one of their worst," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Michigan guard Trey Burke scored a game-high 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but few of his teammates showed up. His main sidekicks — Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Glenn Robinson III — combined for four points and 15 shots. Hardaway was 1 for 11.
"Tim’s been playing as well as any guard in the country, and he had a bad night," Beilein said. "Tim Hardaway will bounce back."
In all, Michigan shot 39.6 percent from the field (21 of 53) and committed 16 turnovers. The Wolverines also were outrebounded 41-30.
Tuesday night marked the first time in the rivalry’s 105-year history that UM and MSU clashed as top-10 teams — and the Breslin Center was in rare form.
The crowd shook the building in support of an MSU team that had lost here once in the past two seasons.
Just ask Lloyd Carr and Brady Hoke, Michigan football coaches past and present, who sat behind the Wolverines bench within an arm’s reach of the "Izzone" student section.
But only one team lived up to their billing. Michigan State pummeled UM from inside-out, with 6-foot-9 270-pound forward Derrick Nix scoring 10 of the Spartans’ 24 first-half points in the paint. (Michigan had eight).
MSU shot 48.4 percent from the field (30 of 62) and made 7 of 20 3-pointers.
It didn’t even matter that Burke outplayed Keith Appling (11 points on 4-of-14 shooting) in the night’s anticipated matchup of point guards.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.