You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Michigan basketball team beats Michigan State, 70-63, sweeps Spartans for first time since '97

By Michael Rothstein


Junior guard Zack Novak celebrates with fans as he runs off the Crisler Arena court after Michigan's 70-63 victory against Michigan State.

Lon Horwedel |

Darius Morris couldn’t help but crack a smile through the pain.

He helped lead the Michigan basketball team to this point, to a 70-63 win over Michigan State on Saturday, to a season sweep of the Spartans. For a moment, those things made his flu-like symptoms go away.

He fought back vomiting earlier in the day. Spent a good portion of the morning on the toilet, too. But for two hours Saturday afternoon, the sophomore point guard from Los Angeles held on.

Michigan followed along.

“I had to push through for my teammates,” Morris said. “In the second half, my body started aching but I had to step up as a competitor.”


And as he drove through the entire Michigan State defense in the final seconds Saturday to clinch the Wolverines’ first season sweep of the Spartans since 1997, he could exhale.

His in-pain body — Morris said he hadn’t been that sick in a while — was suspended for a moment. Morris, after scoring 13 points, making six assists and grabbing five rebounds, could celebrate.

And Michigan lived in its moment, having completed a turnaround few could have seen coming when the Wolverines entered East Lansing 1-6 in the Big Ten on Jan. 27.

The culmination came Saturday. The moment started that night, when Michigan beat Michigan State, 61-57.

In that moment on the road, Michigan (19-12, 9-9 Big Ten) found its swagger. It knew that if it wanted to have a chance to play in the postseason, it needed to be better.

“We knew we had to play better,” Michigan forward Jordan Morgan said. “We couldn’t even respect how we played at first because we honestly didn’t feel that we had done our best and going forward, we had to play our best basketball and win or lose, we had to leave it all on the court.

“At that point, we were almost like we had to win the Big Ten tournament to even have a chance to get to the tournament.”


  • First Star: Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
    The freshman got hit on the head and didn't score in the first half. In the second, he showed why he might sneak on an All-Big Ten team Monday. He scored all 20 of his points after halftime, including 10 in the first six minutes. It has gotten to the point where Michigan has come to expect this type of performance from their star freshman.

  • Second Star: Kalin Lucas, Michigan State
    The senior had a game-high 25 points and single-handedly kept the Spartans in the game. He consistently made contested shots and almost pulled Michigan State back from a 14-point deficit.

  • Third Star: Evan Smotrycz, Michigan
    The freshman had almost no post game when Michigan's season started. On Saturday, he scored from both the post and from the outside. His 14 points are his most he’s scored since he put up 14 against Iowa on Jan. 30. He also made all five of his free throws and had three steals.

  • Readers’ choice

He doesn’t need to say that anymore.

From that January night on, Michigan won 8 of 11 games, a streak that puts the Wolverines in decent position to secure their second NCAA tournament berth in three seasons.

They earned its first Big Ten tournament bye since 2005 on Saturday and will be off until Friday, when they will be either the No. 4 or 5 seed against Illinois in the second game of the Big Ten quarterfinals.

The possibility of being the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which will happen if Penn State beats Minnesota on Sunday, is something Michigan coach John Beilein couldn’t have imagined in January when Michigan was still a team struggling.

“No, I couldn’t have seen that,” Beilein said. “But I did like what we saw.”

He saw the potential of breakout performances from freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who finished with a team-high 20 points, all in the second half.

He saw glimpses of Morgan becoming a reliable scorer in the post and of freshman forward Evan Smotrycz developing a post game he debuted Saturday with 14 points.

It all came together perhaps better than at any point this season in the first half, when Michigan started the game on a 10-1 and kept Michigan State (17-13, 9-9) without a field goal for the first 6 minutes, 18 seconds before Kalin Lucas hit a jump shot.

“It wasn’t just offense,” Morgan said. “It was defense. Then, on the offensive end just executing and looking for the best shot.

“When we do that, we’re a hard team to play against.”

Lucas, the Michigan State senior who led the Spartans to two Final Fours in his career, almost brought the Spartans back, cutting the Michigan lead to two, 56-54, with 5:48 left as part of his game-high 25 points.

Then Morgan, who fought foul trouble, and Morris, who fought his body, returned to the game for a final push. Morgan scored four of Michigan’s next six points to give the Wolverines a cushion again and a realistic chance of a sweep.

In doing so, Michigan reignited a rivalry that, prior to this season, Michigan State had dominated, winning 18 of the past 22 meetings.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Michigan freshman forward Jon Horford, who grew up in the Lansing suburb of Grand Ledge. “I think everyone knows it is a big deal but I don’t think everyone knows just how big of a deal this is.

“This is huge. This is program-changing stuff.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein



Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 6:08 p.m.

congratulations Blue Brains you're ahead this year.let's see if you can maintain it in the future. Do Not Break Your Arm Patting Yourself on the Back. little brother?is that what you said littlest brother?AND MOST ARROGANT ONE


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 8:57 p.m.

TC - I'm sorry that you were subjected to some impolite Michigan fans. Unfortunately, I think this happens at most sporting events where there are strong rivalries. I also think it depends on where you have the fortune (or misfortune) to be seated. We are season ticket holders in a section where there are many other season ticket holders -- ie. the same people around us at every game -- with the exception of a scattering of people (generally visiting team fans) who are not. The only games where we thought the visiting fans were obnoxious were Kansas, Ohio State and MSU. But the good news is that, as far as I observed, none of the regulars said anything to these few bad eggs. I think it is unfortunate, but if I were to go to an away game, particularly in Columbus, I would not advertise that I am cheering for Michigan.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

Go Blue! Great game, gentlemen. You're right, Jatra, but remember this is The journalists are gone. These are .com-ers. Writing skills are not in the job description. How sad.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

The second corner has been turned! In basketball this year -- Mich vs MSU. Blue 2, Green 0. Go Blue :+}


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 3 p.m.

This Sparty fan congratulates UM on it's victory. I do like your team and your coach. However, the comments here reflect a definite lack of class. I was there and took substantial abuse from the "true Blue". I understand passion. I understand rivalry and I understand payback. Still, I don't want to hear anymore about how rude those aweful Buckeye fans are when you play in Columbus. Wolverines - look in the mirror.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

U of M has its share of jerks just like everyone else.

John B.

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

What I see in these comments is some MSU trolls posting passive-aggressive incendiary comments that indicate a lack of class, so I guess it depends on your viewpoint?


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

Michigan is undefeated against MSU in basketball and football in the Brady Hoke era!!

Pizza Man

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 4:49 a.m.

In the opinion poll I guessed Michigan State to win. That should show how much a know about College Basketball.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 3:34 a.m.

I guess we should understand your excitement, after all you did sweep sparty (for the first time in 14 years)...and you have beaten them 6 times now (in the last 24 games)...and you are going to the big dance again (for the 2nd time in 13 years)...but please...spare us the talk about "order being restored" or implcations that all of a sudden in one season you own MSU again...thats pretty funny. Both teams will be in the dance (sparty for the 14th straight year). Its great for our state to have both make the tournament. But dont get to high and mighty because of a one season sweep. It's March, its Sparty time...


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

@Dan: It's been March for 6 days now. Sorry, but you're not getting out of the first round with your erratic play. I don't disagree with you, though: Michigan is going to need to win and challenge for conference championships before we supplant MSU. It feels so damn good to get those wins.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

Michigan won this game because they were able to show more poise at the end of the game than the older, more-experienced Spartans. They won because Michigan is on their way up and Sparty are on their way down. Mostly, though, they swept MSU this year because Tom Izzo has lost his mojo due to his Cavalier Indulgence last summer. At the beginning of the season, Mighty Sparty was ranked #2 by many. They were expected to be a Final Four team. Meanwhile, Michigan was expected to maybe hit .500 if they were lucky. There were too many question marks. They lost their two best scorers from last year, had no seniors, and none of their freshmen were highly-recruited. My glass is always half-full where Michigan is concerned, and I thought 12-14 wins were likely, and that the NIT would be a great accomplishment for this team. So, what happened? Michigan overachieved and Sparty underachieved. Sometimes, especially when human effort is involved, regression to the mean takes a lot longer than it "should." Finally, though, it looks like the ten-year era of Sparty Arrogance is over, and natural order will soon be restored to the state of Michigan. Mooooove over, Sparty: it's been a great run for you, but it's over. Sparty on, dudes.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

Your record is 9-9. That is .500. Even a Spartan can figure that out.


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

Never thought I would be able to say this but Michigan showed much more confidence and toughness than Michigan State today. The turn around from earlier in the season is nothing short of spectacular. Earlier, I thought they might be competing with Iowa for a place in the NIT. They play together very well. There has been improvement across the board, not a characteristic of Michigan teams in the past. The need Morris as a playmaker. They're not nearly as proficient when he's on the bench. He can control tempo better than any other guard. Morgan has given Michigan an legitimate inside game. Stu Douglas is the x factor because he doesn't always play well with Morris and his shooting and defense are erratic. The freshman forward (Smot..) is learning to play defense and work against bigger, stronger players in the paint. He shoots the 3 as well as the guards. The other forward seems to be always overmatched physically. But he's mentally very tough and wears down opponents with his hard work and will power. Hardaway is fearless as a shooter and has the skill to back it up. He'll receive serious consideration for Freshman of the Year in the Big 10. What I learned from watching State: you can't have two small quick guards on the floor at one time. They give up too much on defense. Dremont Green makes key mistakes down the stretch -- he's slow and a defensive liability. I know he is an assist leader but he's involved with turnovers at key times. He slows down the offense. Also, Izzo bet on the wrong horse. Lucas is the team leader, not Green. His energy, poise, and skill sets the tone for the Spartans. Green, when he's running things makes everyone look ordinary. Michigan has done more than enough to make the NCAA tournament. They far exceeded expectations and they are peaking at the right time. How far they will get is anyone's guess. Surprise us!

Susie Q

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

I am not a season ticket holder, but attend 5-6 games a year. Today we sat in the Maize Rage section because the students are on break. I have never been at Crisler when there was such an electric atmosphere. It was GREAT! I was amazed to learn that Darius Morris was suffering from flu, you wouldn't have guessed it. Granted, the Spartans have had a down year, but it was great beating them twice. We observed Draymond Green talking junk to jordan Dumars at the start of 2nd half, and so I was glad to see he had such a disappointing game. Bring on Illinois. Go Blue.

John B.

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:10 a.m.

Just a great game to watch, today. Seeing them make the majority of their late-in-the-game FTs was exciting. Nice to see a big improvement there since the WIS game.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

Sat next to Gary Moeller at the game. He will be taking some of our comments to Hoke & staff. Anyway, we can't get blown out by illinois and expect a bid, so still a little bit of work to do. That said, if the committee lets potluck u in and not us, well, time to get Bubba Helms out of retirement... This is Michigan, back are we; Potluck u? N.I.T.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

Mega kudos to Coach B*Line and the Wolverines. After a 1-6 start to the Big Ten campaign they have raiilied winning 8 of 11. Michigan swept Sparty because they had better talent and were tougher. The balance of power in the state for basketball has shifted from EL to Ann Arbor. GO BLUE!

Macabre Sunset

Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:31 p.m.

Nice win. Now they have to beat Illinois on the neutral court and at least have a good showing, if not an upset, against Ohio State (which locked up the first seed after Purdue's surprising loss today). One heck of a lot better than these kids looked in December. I'm sure this is a team a five seed does not want to face in the tourney.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

I have gone to several Michigan games this year. It was so much better leaving THIS game today than the one with Wisconsin! So much fun and such great energy in the crowd!!!!!! Go Blue! Next year they will be even better! Can't wait!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

Great win for Michigan. The way this team has developed over the last month+ is nothing short of amazing to me. They're achieving A LOT of this with great defense. They're often undermanned against more talented teams. But playing smart with good D keeps them in every game. And Hardaway continues to amaze me. It looks pretty obvious to me he's even better than his Dad and the best recruit we've brought in here in quite a few years. This team is obviously good enough to be in the NCAA tournament the way they are playing RIGHT NOW.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

DOWN GOES SPARTY,DOWN GOES SPARTY. What is the deal with the michigan fans this was supposed to be a MAIZE OUT.If your gonna go to the game please show proper support.go blue.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:52 p.m.

Missing person report! Anyone hear from concernedinsaline since the game? Have not heard from him since this post before the game! Sorry Big Bros, it's March, which is better known as Izzo Time. Sparty's will prevail. I am glad though that your team is finally competitive again. Beilein is a first class coach. Last game you guys played your hearts out, but I don't think you will shoot 50% from 3pt land again. Besides, after the last game I think I read an Evan Smotrycz comment about being the Big Brother...for the good of your program, he should transfer now. As long as he is on your roster, you can count on a loss from us little brothers. Mikey's curse has been bestowed on your basketball program!!! Sparty on!

Buster W.

Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:44 p.m.

Yes, nice to finally have a sweep after so many years. But turning the tide? C'mon fellow Michigan fans, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The tide hasn't turned any more than Sparty fans spouting it has turned their way in football. Let's see what the next year or two brings before we talking like that.

Buster W.

Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:58 p.m.

@wojax2 I actually piggybacked your post, so thank you!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:48 p.m.

The voice of common sense.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:40 p.m.

1. Wanted to say hello from Texas. Michigan grad 1992. 2. I agree the article could have been written more crisply. However, I noted it was up within 15 minutes after the game ended (approx) and none of us wrote an article to share with the world about this game. 3. Really excited about beating Illinois again in the B1G tourney & I think we've got sweet 16 potential. Go Blue!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Good job by this basketball team. But for all Michigan basketball fans to believe the " tide has turned in this rivalry " its a little too early to say ANYTHING like that.13+ yrs since the last sweep, and now everything has turned?. 1 year doesn't change that people. Good try. Best of luck in the tourney though. These kids deserve it. Sweep next year..then we'll. Talk. Go green. Always.

Jacob Bodnar

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

I think the point is that the tides are beginning to turn. No one with sense is claiming Michigan is the alpha dog of basketball in the state right now, but this is a very well laid foundation to turn that corner and make things interesting in years to come. Meanwhile I think you can make a very good case for John Beilein for Big Ten coach of year

John B.

Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

Let's not feed the trolls.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 11:14 p.m.

wojax you have no idea what your commenting on,sparty loses AGAIN, so you make a negative comment on Mike Roth.. Mike is a great writer,he has to conform a story quickly after the game,and get it sore loser greenie fans can comment,Mike has credentials ,how about yours?


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

I agree with Jatra. Time for remedial writing workshops at


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

!!!GO BLUE!!!! Loved the intensity today from all our guys. I was definitely worried with our shaky free throws, and Jordan getting into foul trouble. But the whole team stepped up when they needed to. Pretty sure this gets us into the Tourney, hope we can upset some brackets :-)


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

After the Wisconsin loss I thought U-M was destined for the NIT. However, sweeping MSU for the first time since 1997 and a 9-9 Big Ten record makes it likely Michigan will get into the torunament, especially if they can get a first round win against Illinois. They would already be in the NCAAs if they had won instead of losing very close games to Kansas, Ohio State, or Wisconsin. The most encouraging thing to me is that U-M has a relatively young squad that keeps getting better as the season goes on.


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:16 p.m.

Really!?! I understand what you are trying to say based on the context of the story. I am no master of english but couldn't this be written a bit better? "The Miami native was down on the court for about a minute after the elbow, which was called an intentional foul, and was looked at by trainers the rest of the half."


Sun, Mar 6, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

See reply below, Jatra. It's sad isn't it?


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:05 p.m.

I have to say - I love this team. They have been exciting to watch and I love it even more that EVERY STARTER, EVEN THE 6TH AND 7TH MAN, are coming back next year. Belein has laid a great foundation for this team's future. The only thing that would make me happier would be if little brother lost its first game in the tourny and went to the NIT instead. THIS IS MICHIGAN once again!!!!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

Not to be critical but who wrote this and what is it supposed to say? "It could sense it, too, as Tim Hardaway Jr., the freshman through much of Michigan's second half of the season run has gone through, calmly made two free throws with 30.8 seconds left to give the Wolverines a 68-61 lead and as Darius Morris drove through the entirety of the Michigan State defense as the seconds wore down."


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

Poor Izzo. He found a way to lose. The days of being dominated by the green weenies are over! GO BLUE


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 9:34 p.m.

Go Blue!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

I have loved this basketball team from the very start of the season. These kids play their hearts out and never give up. They deserve this win and our cheers. It's GREAT to be a Michigan Wolverine!!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 9:29 p.m.

Did anyone else see Izzo snub Belein after the game (handshake but not a word spoken)? Talk about the return of Little Brother!!! . great victory!


Sat, Mar 5, 2011 : 10:06 p.m.

no but he's such a whiner anyway; what else did you expect? Bet he wishes today that he took that pro job 7 months ago.