The Spartans (13-3, 5-1 Big Ten) have won 11 of their last 12 games. They have also won 11 of their last 12 versus Michigan (12-8, 3-3). It wasn't a vintage Spartan victory, as they committed 17 turnovers and only shot 24-51 from the field (.471) and 2-11 (.182) from beyond the arc.
Michigan State overcame their errors by earning a +10 rebounding margin (35-25), including 11 offensive boards, as well as tough defense (23 Wolverine turnovers) and a 26-14 scoring advantage off the bench.
Dion Harris and Courtney Sims each had 12 points for the Wolverines, who will be forced into action for the foreseeable future without starting point guard Daniel Horton. Horton was suspended indefinitely by Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker Wednesday after being charged with domestic violence on Monday. Without their best ball handler, Michigan had plenty of trouble against the Spartans' pressure defense.
The visitors form Ann Arbor opened the game with a 7-0 run. The Spartans finally got on the board with Alan Anderson tip-in at 16:09 of the opening half. That bucket kicked off a 12-0 Michigan State run, which coupled with some stifling defense helped force 10 first-half Wolverine turnovers and gave the Spartans a 28-22 advantage at the break.
Keyed by their defense, the Spartans scored the first eight points after halftime and had a 52-35 lead midway through the second stanza Michigan State's Paul Davis, playing on a sprained ankle that he suffered in a Sunday afternoon practice session, had 12 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 blocked shot in off the bench for the Spartans.
Spartan Head Coach Tom Izzo was pleased with his Center's performance: "I was really pleased with the play of Paul Davis. We honestly didn't know if he would play a minute. He didn't even participate in the shoot-around this morning. I give a lot of credit to the doctors, the training staff and to him."
However, Izzo's feelings about the Spartans overall performance were a bit less complementary: "I thought we played very well defensively, and very poor offensively. I think Michigan played awfully hard and deserves some credit.
Offensively, the turnovers (17) and shooting (.471 overall, .182 from 3-pt range) really hurt us . . . We are to the point of the season when it is crunch time. 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 a part of that."
Next up on the Spartans' Big Ten slate is a home date with currently No. 1 ranked Illinois next Tuesday. Before that however comes an intrastate matchup against Oakland University this Saturday at the Breslin Center.