CHICAGO — It happened again.
Michigan led Michigan State by 12 points in the first half, only to see it slip away as the Spartans ended the game on a 10-0 run to complete an epic comeback and win the Big Ten Tournament title for the first time since 2016 and earn their fourth BTT championship in seven years. Michigan saw its ten-game Big Ten Tournament winning streak conclude.
“It’s not the last couple minutes, it’s about the full volume of forty minutes,” John Beilein said after his team’s first Big Ten Tournament loss since 2016. “If I’m playing you (Beilein points at the reporter) and we’re playing, and you got the ball five times, and I don’t get any, you’re gonna win the game. You can’t give away five or six possessions a game and say my bad. You can’t do that, and that’s what we did today.”
Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston (14 points, 11 assists) delivered the dagger with 28 seconds to play when he sank an incredibly difficult layup inside the paint. Michigan saw its final two shots miss as Ignas Brazdeikis (19 points, 6 rebounds) had his attempt blocked by Aaron Henry and a Jordan Poole (13 points, 3-11 FG) forced a three-point attempt that didn’t even hit the rim.
“Tell me a bad shot Michigan State took today; you didn’t find one. Not one. Good teams value each possession,” Beilein continued.
The first half was a dream for the Wolverines. Michigan held Michigan State to just 32.1% shooting from the field and led 31-23. Everything seemed to be clicking as both teams traded blows in front of a raucous United Center crowd.
With 15:40 left in the game, Michigan led 41-29, then the Spartans began their run. Led by McQuaid, Xavier Tillman (9 points, 11 rebounds) and Winston, Michigan State climbed its way out of the hole, finally tying the game at 48-48 with seven minutes and change on the clock.
“I think defensively we’ve been playing well, sometimes there’s one or two minutes where we kinda just lose our poise a little bit,” said Michigan center Jon Teske. “Or we shoot shots we typically don’t shoot. If we correct those things, we are tough to beat. We gotta learn from this; we will bounce back, we’ll be ready Thursday.”
At that point, Michigan assistant Luke Yaklich looked at Beilein and told him to bring Teske back on the floor. Teske sparked a small run for Michigan. The junior big came up with a pass to Ignas Brazdeikis that led to a dunk to put Michigan up 50-48. On the next possession, he defended Tillman, forcing him into a miss and grabbing the rebound. Teske finished the play on the other end of the floor receiving a pass from Zavier Simpson and laying it in at the hoop. Michigan was up 52-48, but the Spartans continued mounting their challenge that eventually led to a victory.
Michigan took a difficult dose of green and white medicine for a third time in three weeks Saturday. No excuses were given in the post-game media scrums, only respect for an opponent that beat the Wolverines in a come-from-behind fashion for a third straight game.
“Give credit to them, they are well coached, they have tremendous players,” said Teske. “They were knocking down shots today, some of our shots didn’t fall, Coach B just said sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way. Give credit to them; they deserve it.”
“We gotta do a better job executing, simple as that,” said Charles Matthews. “We got a game plan; we gotta do a better job with game plans, we gotta do better, simple as that.”
“Lose three times in one season to your rival, it’s gonna hurt,” said Isaiah Livers. “We use it as motivation for our turnaround to the NCAA Tournament. I am glad we don’t have a week or two weeks just to sit there and think about that last game. We can get right back to playing.”
Barring the unlikely scenario of Michigan and Michigan State meeting for the fourth time in the Final Four, this is the last time the Spartans and Wolverines will face off until next season. Michigan State currently holds bragging rights, a three-game winning streak, the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships, but to the Wolverines, come Monday, the loss is out of their minds. Michigan has to get ready to head to Des Moines to play Montana in its NCAA Tournament opener.
Sunday’s loss will sting, but Michigan still has a chance to accomplish its final goal this season. However, unlike the losses to Michigan State, the Wolverines next loss will be their last of the season, and that is something Michigan will try to avoid for as long as possible.