I'm going to try to write through the very real tears streaming down my face. I'm also cackling with glee.
— Ace Anbender (@AceAnbender) January 13, 2018
I know Brian already posted it. Moe Wagner giving Nick Ward a crippling case of the jelly-ankles cannot be posted enough.
Moritz Wagner kicks Nick Ward to the curb with a nasty ankle breaker! pic.twitter.com/3a44SktqJx
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) January 13, 2018
Teddy Valentine and Co. may have done their best to muck up an classic rivalry row, but between the endless whistles (51 combined fouls!) was some fantastic basketball. Michigan and Michigan State played a back-and-forth affair with neither team able to break the other. The lead changed hands 13 times and was knotted up 11 more; the margin didn't crack double digits either way until a Wagner free throw with 1:10 to go.
Wagner's ankle may not be at full health, but you'd never know it based on today's performance. Despite only playing 27 minutes before fouling out in the game's waning moments, he poured in a career-high 27 points, roasting whichever Spartan big man tried to defend him with a dizzying array of off-the-dribble moves for layups and pops out to the perimeter for three-point bombs.
Ward couldn't keep up, nor could he come close to matching Wagner's impact on offense, scoring just four points in 14 minutes. Jaren Jackson Jr. (and a host of others on both sides) also battled serious foul trouble, and MSU's vaunted defense could be driven on as a result. The Wolverines nearly matched the Spartans in points in the paint, 32-34, and more than made up that ground by hitting three more three-pointers. Remarkably, they also outrebounded MSU on the offensive end 11 to 8.
Wagner had plenty of help, too. Zavier Simpson dominated his matchup with fellow sophomore point guard Cassius Winston, outscoring him 16-to-11, dishing out five assists to Winston's two, and recording zero turnovers against his counterpart's four. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews made up for poor performances from the field by combining to make 11-of-13 free throws. Isaiah Livers, who got his first career start, added six points in 25 energetic minutes. The man he replaced, Duncan Robinson, sunk his only triple from the corner and fought hard against brutally tough matchups.
Most importantly, the whole team gave a defensive performance that, given the context, is among the best single-game efforts in Beilein's tenure. Little came easy for the Spartans, who couldn't get anything going on the perimeter, making 3-of-12 threes, and instead had to rely on brute force. Michigan held up remarkably well against MSU's front line and forced 18 turnovers with an aggressive, varied approach.
In fact, if Michigan had made a few more layups in the first half or more free throws down the stretch, this could've been a downright comfortable win. Holding the Spartans at bay for a double-digit win will more than suffice, however.
By the end, Jordan Poole wanted to know where all the Spartans had gone.
Jordan Poole: “Huh? What? Where y’all went?” pic.twitter.com/qFOiKoVEri
— Mike Persak (@MikeDPersak) January 13, 2018
The Stauskas is strong with this team.
[Hit THE JUMP for the box score.]
— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) January 13, 2018
Izzo on Wagner celebrating on court, which he didn't like seeing. "He earned it. He's Scott Skiles - he talked it, he walked it."
— Chris Solari (@chrissolari) January 13, 2018