At the final buzzer, it was the Wolverines that stayed there.
After a close first half, No. 20 Michigan made a statement in the second half as it stormed past rival No. 13 Michigan State 79-70 at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan has now won six of its last eight against their neighbors and have swept the season series for the second time in four seasons.
Sophomore Nik Stauskas broke out of his slump with a huge performance as he scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half to lead the way for the Wolverines. Caris LeVert posted big numbers as well with 23 points while playing a team-high 39 minutes.
With the game hanging in the balance and Michigan trailing 52-51, the Wolverines opened the flood gates with a dominating 17-4 run to put away the Spartans for good.
Michigan State (22-6, 11-4) was led by Gary Harris who scored 21 points. But the real story for Michigan State was turnovers. The Spartans finished the contest with 13 turnovers compared to only three by the Wolverines. Michigan capitalized on the sloppy play and rolled to a victory.
Michigan (19-7, 11-3) now has a chance to win the Big Ten for the first time since tying for the title back in 2012. The schedule for the Wolverines sets up very nicely as they will play unranked teams in the final four games of the regular season. Michigan finishes its home slate with Minnesota and Indiana and will head on the road to face Purdue and Illinois.
The Spartans, meanwhile, have a bit of an uphill climb if they plan on reclaiming the top spot. Tom Izzo‘s squad will face Illinois on Mar. 1, but will have to go through No. 15 Iowa and No. 24 Ohio State to finish out the campaign.
Based on the upcoming schedules, Michigan has a much easier path to a Big Ten championship. While no game in the Big Ten should ever be considered easy, Michigan head coach John Beilein would much rather see his upcoming schedule as compared to Izzo’s. With that said, the Spartans have the talent to finish strong and make it interesting come early March, so the Wolverines can’t lay any eggs.
But for now, Michigan is sitting pretty in the driver’s seat.