No. 4 Michigan State and Michigan to meet for only scheduled game
7:36 PM, Jan 12, 2018
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Tom Izzo dislikes Michigan and doesn’t hide it.
John Beilein, meanwhile, can’t work up the same emotions for Michigan State.
“He doesn’t like us,” Beilein said Friday. “I’m not a hater.”
Both coaches, though, are not fond of the unfriendly rivals having only one scheduled game this season.
“Playing your rivals twice is what everybody wants,” Izzo said.
Michigan and Michigan State will be scheduled to face each other twice in the future, starting next season when the Big Ten goes to a 20-game conference slate.
The fourth-ranked Spartans (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) will play the Wolverines (14-4, 3-2) in this season’s only guaranteed matchup at the Breslin Center, where the unwelcomed visitors have won just twice in two decades.
“It’s one of the more festive atmospheres in the Big Ten,” Beilein said. “They don’t take very kindly to the maize and blue.”
Here are some things to keep an eye on when the series resumes Saturday:
BOARDS AND THE BREAK
Rebounding is one of the pillars of Izzo’s program, a part of the game he values at both ends of the court.
Beilein, meanwhile, is only concerned about rebounding when his players are blocking out on defense. He doesn’t want the Wolverines crashing the glass when they’re on offense. He won’t care if the Spartans gets twice as many rebounds as Michigan, he insisted, as long as his team limits how many offensive rebounds and second-chance points they get.
Getting back on defense, instead of trying to get a rebound off a miss, is also part of Beilein’s plan to slow down Michigan State’s transition offense.
Miles Bridges’ body language suggested he was frustrated with being held scoreless for 30-plus minutes in Michigan State’s overtime win against Rutgers earlier this week. Izzo is publicly and privately saying he has to play more selfishly to create more shots for himself instead of passing so often to teammate.
“I had to tell him that being a good teammate means that you help the team win and if you’re the best player you’ve got to help this team win by being a little more aggressive,” Izzo said.
Bridges’ best friend, point guard Tum Tum Nairn, is also putting pressure on his teammate.
“He has to be at his best for us to be the team we want to be,” Nairn said.
Charles Matthews, a Kentucky transfer, has become Michigan’s leading scorer after being a seldom-used freshman two years ago with the Wildcats. The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging 15.6 points and is among team leaders with 5.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. Nairn wasn’t surprised to see Matthews highlighted on the scouting report.
“I played against him in high school on the AAU circuit and he was tough back then,” he said.
Michigan State’s Nick Ward and Michigan’s Moritz Wagner will be interesting to watch. Ward was called for a technical when he appeared to trip Wagner during a stoppage in play in the last meeting. Ward said back then he didn’t have his right foot connect with Wagner’s left foot during a timeout, sending him tumbling to the court.
“I didn’t take it as personal or intentional,” Wagner said Friday.
Wagner is ready to take on the role of a villain at the Breslin Center, where fans will jeer and taunt him along with the rest of his teammates.
“I do enjoy that a little bit,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about getting buckets and defending the other basket.”
A LOOK BACK
Michigan routed the Spartans 86-57 , its largest win in the rivalry since also beating Izzo’s first team by the same 29-point margin in 1996, in the last meeting. The last time the Wolverines were in East Lansing, Bridges had 15 points and 13 rebounds in a 70-62 win as he and his fellow freshmen had a successful debut in the rivalry.
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