ANN ARBOR (DETROIT FREE PRESS) - State champs. First place. Statement win.
Anything and everything worked for the No. 20 Michigan basketball team today as the Wolverines knocked off No. 13 Michigan State, 79-70, at Crisler Center.
After another porous defensive first half, the Wolverines ran up one of their patented second-half explosions, running away on their home court.
That sealed a sweep of the Spartans, a half-game lead in the Big Ten standings and the driver's seat for the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament with four games remaining.
Plus a stranglehold on the rivalry, now having won six of eight.
No. 20 Michigan (19-7, 11-3 Big Ten) was fueled by 25 points from Nik Stauskas, including 21 after halftime, and 23 from Caris LeVert.
Michigan State (22-6, 11-4 Big Ten) was led by Gary Harris' 21 points, nine in the second half.
At the end, one sign said it all: "You've been Staus-kissed" referring to his blown kisses to the Breslin Center fans in the first meeting this season.
Entering the second half with only four points, Stauskas looked like he did for the previous month, tentative and passive.
Then he cranked it up, scoring U-M's first five points of the half.
He found a shooting flow and, knowing MSU planned to take away LeVert after his 14-point first half, assumed the leadership role reminding why he's a Big Ten player of the year candidate.
Michigan trailed, 48-43, with 14½ minutes to play when Stauskas decided to launch.
A three, a drive, a front rim jumper that bounced in — 11 straight U-M points in one stretch, fueling a 21-4 run.
Everything was dropping so when LeVert passed up an open three to take the ball baseline for a hammer dunk, it showed how easy the game became for the Wolverines.
That gave Michigan a 12-point lead with 7:23 remaining and U-M just sucked down the clock from there.
The first half was in MSU's control most of the way. The Spartans lit it up as many Michigan opponents have recently, shooting 59.1% from the field. Led by Harris' 12 points, the Spartans had U-M down by 11 points midway through the first half before the Wolverines found a rhythm, ripping off 10 straight points to make the game competitive.
The Wolverines stayed close the rest of the half, answering each time the Spartans appeared to pull away.
The final sequence was the most reflective as Harris showed his NBA skill, spinning out of a baseline double team to get off a floater.
Then Michigan got the ball back up court for a LeVert three, which fell through as he bounded back toward the locker room, with MSU holding the 36-34 halftime lead.
Contact Mark Snyder: email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @mark__snyder.