EAST LANSING, MICH. — It was the first of its kind. And for Michigan, the worst in a long time.
The classic matchup between top-10 teams never materialized Tuesday night at the Breslin Center. Instead, No. 8 Michigan State obliterated No. 4 Michigan like the Spartans haven’t done in more than a decade — when these programs were miles apart.
That’s the way it looked again, at least for one night, in a 75-52 Spartans rout. It was the largest margin of victory for MSU since a 71-44 win in 2002, and the lead got as high as 31.
“We probably played our best game in three years,” coach Tom Izzo said, “and they probably played one of their worst.”
MSU (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) looked like a contender to win Big Ten and national championships. Michigan (21-4, 8-4) looked like it had no idea how to exploit MSU’s defense or stop the Spartans from scoring, inside or outside.
That’s what MSU did in extending its Big Ten lead to two games over Michigan and a half game over 9-2 Indiana, getting 17 points from shooter Gary Harris and 14 from post specialist Derrick Nix.
“It says a lot,” Appling said of the performance. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to try to remain consistent. If we continue to play like this, the sky’s the limit for us.”
Appling scored 11 for MSU and Branden Dawson 10, though Dawson had to retreat to the locker room late in the second half, appearing woozy after taking a hit to the face. Izzo said the medical staff did not think it was a concussion.
The Spartans also got big bench performances from Denzel Valentine (seven points, nine rebounds, four assists) and Matt Costello (career highs with eight points and six rebounds), with reserve guard Travis Trice out because of concussion-like symptoms.
Michigan got 18 points from Trey Burke, but Tim Hardaway Jr. was 1-for-11 for two points. The Wolverines finished 1-3 in a brutal four-game stretch that included losses at Indiana and Wisconsin, and now have little margin for error to remain in the conference race.