Clinging to a one point lead with under a minute remaining, Michigan State was looking for a bucket to put a little space between themselves and Michigan. Point guard Keith Appling took a running jumper in the lane, but the fateful shot bounced off the front of the rim, causing a line drive rebound. The ball was batted around before Michigan freshman Trey Burke came up with it and dashed upcourt in search of the deciding score.
Burke was hounded by Spartan defenders, but spotted Stu Douglass out of the corner of his eye and dished his teammate the ball for a layup and a one-point Michigan lead. Still plenty of time, though, remained for State to respond.
Tom Izzo took a timeout with 31 seconds left to get everything set, but his plan went awry and Appling's initial attempt was blocked by Jordan Morgan. After some scrambling, the ball ended up in the hand of veteran forward Draymond Green. Always very athletic for his size, Green spun away from his man and attempted a leaning jumper from the free throw line. It was a decent look, but not one he was accustomed to taking. The shot bounced off the rim, and the subsequent tip was also no good. Time ran out and Michigan hung on for a huge victory.
The game was played at a very swift pace, with only 20 fouls called for the entire 40 minutes (and only 8 called on Michigan). After the game, Izzo remarked that he would have liked to get the ball inside more and lessened the burden on Appling, who led Michigan State with 12 field goal attempts and made 5 of them. That left only 8 field goal attempts for Green, despite his ability to put the team on his back this season.
Green only scored 7 points, but was able to contributed with 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. The surprising leading scorer for MSU was Derrick Nix, who showed a soft touch inside and put in 13 points on 6 of 9 shooting. Appling added 10 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
As for the victors, I was impressed by Michigan's ability to get things done despite 6 of 21 shooting from beyond the arc. Instead, the Wolverines did a great job getting to the rim, which is the primary skill of this game's clear cut MVP, Trey Burke. Burke was 8 of 11 for 20 points and had the game-winning assist to boot. With just over five minutes left in the game, Burke fearlessly drained a three-pointer taken from just a step in front of the center court logo to tie the game at 52-52. Besides a highlight reel dunk in the second half, Tim Hardaway Jr. had a relatively quiet night with just 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting.
Michigan State has now followed up its 15-game winning streak with two straight road losses, so the Spartans should be glad to return home this weekend for a match-up with Purdue. Michigan will take their show on the road for a mid-season out of conference clash with Arkansas. These two teams meet again on February 5 in East Lansing for a game that the Spartan faithful will surely be psyched for.