Michigan basketball team upsets Michigan State in East Lansing, 61-57, for first time since 1997
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Updated at 11 p.m.
EAST LANSING — Michigan’s players and coaches brought up a similar refrain all week, a continuous loop of a reminder. They did so in practice and in the locker room, alone and in groups.
No Michigan men's basketball team had won at the Breslin Center since Jan. 25, 1997, when Travis Conlan was the Wolverines point guard and the basketball balance in this state was much different.
So when Conlan was in a raucous Michigan locker room after the Wolverines pulled off the unthinkable Thursday night, knocking off Michigan State, 61-57, in a game it led the majority of the way, current point guard Darius Morris asked who was the last point guard to win at Michigan State.
“Now,” Conlan, currently Michigan’s director of operations said, “We’re saying Darius Morris.”The win registered throughout Michigan’s locker room under the Breslin Center.
Junior guard Stu Douglass, who hit a 3-pointer that iced the game for Michigan with 20.2 seconds left, said he’d never really felt like this.
When the shot left his hands, it was a little high, he said. But he felt like it was going in and when it did, when freshman forward Tim Hardaway Jr. practically danced down the court, Douglass said he relaxed.
An eerie calmness fell over him as the Breslin Center — loud as ever moments before after a 13-2 run brought Michigan State (12-8, 4-4 Big Ten) within two points, 57-55 — fell silent.
Students in the Izzone, the Michigan State student section, were in disbelief. Many of them had never seen a loss to Michigan at home in football or basketball, so as Douglass’ 3-pointer fell, it was met with cries of “Oh, no!” and “Noooo!”
Meanwhile, Michigan (12-9, 2-6) didn’t know how to react.
“I don’t know if I’ve experienced a win like this before,” Douglass said. “With any team. Ever.”
Let alone the Wolverines. And he was on the Michigan team that went to the NCAA tournament two years ago, the same team that beat Duke.
This win was bigger for Michigan. It snapped a six-game losing streak, one that no Michigan player knew what to do with. It came a game after the Wolverines needed a post-game team meeting following a 69-64 loss to Minnesota.
“We finally had our come-to-Jesus moment after that game and we (were) close against the top teams in the country, down against two very good teams on the road,” junior guard Zack Novak said. “The one at home, that was just a big one, felt like it was one we had that we let slip away.
“We looked inside ourselves and took a look in the mirror, saw some things we didn’t like and saw what we needed to fix.”
They had to like what they saw Thursday. They saw a team focused and determined, one playing together on offense and defense, forcing 13 turnovers and Michigan State into poor shot selection.
They saw a sophomore point guard who was struggling, Morris, revert to non-conference form with 17 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals.
Michigan shot better from the 3-point line than it had in any Big Ten game, shooting 47.6 percent from the 3-point line and was led by Novak, who went 6-of-8 from the 3-point line and scored 19 points.
Michigan led at the half, 33-27. It led the entire second half, too, fighting off that Michigan State rally led by senior point guard Kalin Lucas, who had a game-high 27 points.
But in the end, for the first time since Jan. 2, Michigan won a basketball game. And it was a better win, more important win, than any of the current Wolverines experienced before at Michigan.
It was a win that could alter the course of a season, much like 57-56 loss to Michigan State in Crisler Arena 366 days ago sent the Wolverines into a tailspin that ended with a 15-17 record.
A year later came the uplifting victory, the one that could shift the trajectory of a season, of a program bursting for some positive momentum to change what had been a rough two years since reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2009.
“Amazing,” said freshman forward Jon Horford, who grew up 10 minutes from the Breslin Center in Grand Ledge. “Best game of my life. Best win of my life. Love it.”
This was a rival, a school that Michigan hadn’t beaten in football or men’s basketball in 1,181 days.
That didn’t come up much this week, but after, it did.
"No," said redshirt freshman forward Jordan Morgan, the only Michigan native in the Wolverines’ starting lineup. “But it’s zero now.”