Michigan State improved its NCAA Tournament resume with a 64-58 victory over Indiana on Tuesday night.
At the same time, Illinois ran Michigan out of the Crisler Center while the Wolverines blew an opportunity to win the Big Ten title outright.
It spelled good and bad news for the Spartans.
Good because MSU inched closer to receiving a tournament bid, but bad because the Wolverines would be out for blood two nights later.
Michigan State started slow (a theme this season) and went nearly four minutes without a field goal before Aaron Henry's driving layup gave MSU its first points of the game.
After starting 0-for-5 from the field, the Spartans recovered, finishing 11-for-20 on 55% shooting, and Michigan State's defense forced eight first-half turnovers, which helped keep it close.
Yet, the Wolverines pulled away for a double-digit lead just before the break once Henry picked up his second foul, a flagrant one for unintentionally elbowing Franz Wagner's face. He exited at the 2:45 mark, and Michigan took full advantage, ending the half on a 9-2 run.
MSU's margin for error is already extremely small, even with Henry on the court, and certainly when he's on the bench. His absence helped shift momentum in the Wolverine's favor.
Tom Izzo probably should have risked it regardless of the two fouls. Either way, it's a tough break for Michigan State.
Then it got out of hand.
Michigan increased its lead to 18 points, and the Spartans weren't getting much production from anyone other than Henry.
The Wolverines went on a 25-4 run and never looked back.
Henry, who averaged 21.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, four assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.8 steals, desperately needed help but couldn't find any.
Joshua Langford shot 2-of-10 for six points; Gabe Brown, who isn't on the court for defense, took two shots in 27 minutes, and Rocket Watts was inefficient.
Mady Sissoko and Jack Hoiberg checked in with 5:56 left, essentially calling it a night.
However, Michigan State played on tired legs and faced the No. 2 ranked team in the country. It's not an exact science; the Spartans had little to no chance tonight. Nor did MSU have to win, but you never want to see your rival celebrate a conference title.
The loss also gives Izzo his first losing Big Ten record in his 26 seasons as head coach.
In years' one and two, the 66-year old finished 9-9 with trips to the NIT, before earning 22 straight tourney bids.
Michigan State may need another win or two in the Big Ten tournament to extend the streak. But first things first, the Spartans have another shot at Michigan Sunday afternoon.
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