This rivalry is close in all-time matchups with Michigan State taking the 64-60 edge. The Scarlet Knights held them to 41.2 on Wednesday (and 38.6 percent on December 5 in Piscataway) and also bested the Spartans, 40-36, in rebounding - no small feat considering the Spartans also led the country in rebounding margin entering the night. Moe Wagner scored a game-high 27 points including a go-ahead 3-pointer with eight minutes to play, helping the Wolverines break open a back-and-forth game and storm to a third straight victory over their in-state rivals.
Sanders had the ball in his hands and a chance to win it in regulation, but the Spartans walled off his drive and he missed a long two-pointer with two hands in his face as time expired. They kept battling back, though, and took a brief lead in regulation and another in the extra period before the Spartans were able to go ahead for good at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. "They are playing well too, so we just have to bring it and if we don't, we are going to have a loss on our home court and we don't want that".
"When you take Nick out of there, we're not as good down there offensively", MSU coach Tom Izzo said. Georgia cut a second half, 10-point deficit to two on Rayshaun Hammonds' three-pointer, but the Tigers went on a 7-0 run thanks to three-pointers from Kassius Robertson and Kevin Puryear with six minutes left, and Missouri (12-4, 2-1 SEC) widened its lead to 15 before sealing the victory.
Do the Spartans have the toughness - both mentally and physically - to be serious national title contenders this season? I don't worry about their confidence. "I think this is obviously an example though, when you talk about the depth of the Big Ten". I thought we got caught up in the officiating, they just let them play. "But we got outscored on the foul line by 12 and that's the difference in the game".
Izzo has a challenge for his best player.
"He is just being dynamic", Jackson said of Wagner. Bridges was more aggressive and looking to score in the half, adding two triples and a couple free throws to his night, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. He really is, and he's got so many positive things.
"I don't feel any different about our team", Izzo insisted. I'm good at that. "But I made my free throws and it's like if I make my free throws ain't nobody going to stop me, but I feel that way all the time".
The Wolverines are coming off an agonizing 70-69 home loss to No. 5 Purdue on Tuesday. There were 51 fouls called and 68 free throw attempts. Charles Matthews' desperation half-court heave at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
"Moe just made huge plays", MI coach John Beilein said. The Mountaineers had their nation-leading 15-game winning streak stopped. Fellow Wolverines Zavier Simpson and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman also were crucial in the upset, adding 16 and 14 points respectively. Plus Rutgers played the Spartans tough last month at the RAC before falling 62-52. Improbably, it's the Boilermakers who appear to be the league's best team at the moment, while the Spartans are just trying to avoid being overtaken by the Buckeyes and Wolverines.
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