Monday, March 17, 2014
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MSU wins Big Ten, bumps Michigan to No. 2 NCAA seed

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[March 17, 2014]  INDIANAPOLIS  Michigan's march to a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed went off the rails on Sunday.

Michigan State claimed a 69-55 Big Ten tournament victory that denied the Wolverines the postseason title to match their regular-season championship.

It also cost the Wolverines a top NCAA seed. Instead, Michigan was No. 2 in the Midwest Region behind unbeaten Wichita State.

"I think Michigan would have been a top NCAA seed had they won," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Forward Adreian Payne scored a game-high 18 points as the Spartans (26-8) claimed the Big Ten's automatic NCAA Tournament berth and earned a No. 4 seed in the East Region.

Michigan State maintained a perfect record in Big Ten championship-game appearances with its fourth in four tries and second in three seasons.

Eighth-ranked Michigan, the Big Ten regular-season champ and No. 1 seed in the tournament, struggled from the field much of the afternoon, finishing 17 of 54 (31.5 percent) as guards Nik Stauskas scored 17 points and Derrick Walton Jr. added 11.

Guards Branden Dawson (the tournament's Most Outstanding Player) and Gary Harris each added 15 points for Michigan State.

"(The Spartans) were exceptional in everything they did," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "Their defense was really good, their steals in the first half and their offensive rebounding just took possessions from us."

The No. 22-ranked Spartans, seeded No. 3 in the tournament, also took advantage of nine Wolverines turnovers and converted them into 18 points, outscored Michigan 16-3 on fast breaks and had a 38-20 advantage in points in the paint.

"I told our guys I think our defense is going to make the difference tonight," Izzo said. "We were so much better defensively in this whole tournament."

The Wolverines' first-half highlights came early as they jumped to a quick but short-lived 9-4 lead four minutes into the game. The Spartans replied when Dawson's three-point play launched a 12-0 run that extended to a 21-5 surge for a 25-14 lead with 9:16 left in the half.

Guard Keith Appling's steal and layup with 4:39 left in the half opened a 35-24 Michigan State advantage, its second 11-point edge of the half.

Michigan went nearly 4:30 without a field goal while hitting seven free throws during the span. Walton's layup with 4:24 left ended the drought.

The Wolverines crept back to within seven points at 37-26 with 1:59 left in the half, but Harris' dunk as time expired pushed Michigan State's halftime lead to 38-29.

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Michigan missed its first five shots from the field in the second half and Michigan State extended its lead to 46-29  its biggest to that point  on back-to-back Payne jumpers and a Dawson layup followed by a dunk with 16:57 remaining.

"I thought we had a couple of really good looks and didn't convert and they did," Beilein said. "All of a sudden it's 15 and now you're fighting back the whole way."

The Wolverines never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Michigan advanced to the semifinals with Saturday's 72-69 semifinal victory over Ohio State, the Wolverines' first postseason win over the Buckeyes in seven meetings. Michigan State reached the final with an 83-75 semifinal victory over Wisconsin.

"This has been a big year for Michigan State," Izzo said. "This year, our football team came to Indianapolis to win a Big Ten championship followed by our basketball team now winning a Big Ten championship. This has been a special year."

NOTES: Sunday's title-game appearance was Michigan's second overall and first as a No. 1 seed. The Wolverines beat Purdue 76-67 for the 1998 title in Chicago. ... Big Ten Player of the Year Nik Stauskas came in third in conference scoring with an overall 17.5 average and the Michigan guard had averaged 18.5 in two tournament games. ... Stauskas is also among 15 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award as national player of the year. ... Michigan's John Beilein, Big Ten coach of the year selection by the media, entered the game two wins shy of 700 during a 36-season career, including seven years in Ann Arbor. ... Michigan State entered Sunday unbeaten in three previous championship game appearances (1999, 2000 and 2012). Michigan State played 13 of 18 Big Ten games with players out with injuries. The Spartans have only been whole since March 1 when G/F Branden Dawson returned.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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