Michigan State Spartans center Derrick Nix (25) passes the ball against Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) during the first half at Jack Breslin Students Events Center.(Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)
EAST LANSING (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - It was the first of its kind. And for Michigan, the worst in a long time.
The classic matchup between top-10 teams never materialized tonight at Breslin Center. Instead, No. 8 Michigan State obliterated No. 4 Michigan like the Spartans haven't done in more than a decade - back when these programs were miles apart.
That's the way it looked again, at least for one night, in a 75-52 Spartans rout. It was the largest margin of victory for MSU since a 71-44 win in 2002, and the lead got as high as 31.
MSU (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) looked like a contender to win Big Ten and national championships. Michigan (21-4, 8-4) looked like it had no idea how to stop the Spartans from scoring, inside or outside.
That's what MSU did in extending its conference lead to two games over U-M and a half game over 9-2 Indiana, getting 17 points from Gary Harris and 16 from Derrick Nix. Keith Appling scored 11 for MSU and Branden Dawson 10, though Dawson had to retreat to the locker room late in the second half, appearing woozy after taking a hit to the face.
Michigan got 18 points from Trey Burke, but Tim Hardaway Jr. was 1-for-11 for two points. The Wolverines finish 1-3 in a brutal four-game stretch that included losses at Indiana and Wisconsin, and now have little margin for error to remain in the race.
The noise and intensity were at peak levels from the tip, and it was 10-7 Spartans after four minutes, with the teams a combined 8-for-12 from the floor. MSU's lead got to five, then seven, then 11 on a Nix tip-in that looked more like a volleyball serve.
It was 35-19 after MSU freshman Matt Costello grabbed an offensive rebound and dropped the ball in off the glass, prompting a John Beilein timeout with 2:50 left in the half. Costello hit another short shot just before halftime to make it 38-24 at the break - then skipped out of the arena, waving his arms as the crowd roared.
The Wolverines badly needed to chop into the lead in the first four minutes after the break, but it didn't happen. Instead, the Spartans just kept pouring it on, making shots, grabbing rebounds, imploring the crowd.
An Appling jumper, then transition three-point bomb made it 48-29 and prompted yet another Beilein timeout, with 16:16 left in the game. But there was nothing he could do.
Contact Joe Rexrode: 313-222-2625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @joerexrode. Check out his MSU blog atfreep.com/heyjoe.