EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — With some swagger and a sweet stroke, Nik Stauskas lifted Michigan to a rare win at Michigan State.
Stauskas made a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:12 left and finished with 19 points to lead the 21st-ranked Wolverines to an 80-75 win over the third-ranked Spartans on Saturday night to remain the only Big Ten team without a conference loss.
The sophomore shooting guard had four assists and unofficially had another one, separating coach John Beilein from a face-to-face argument with an official with 4:01 remaining. "He was about to get a technical," Stauskas said.
Stauskas helped the usually mild-mannered Beilein from saying or doing something that might cost his team points just before the Wolverines (15-4, 7-0 Big Ten) went on a 10-0 run late in the game to take control.
"That's a great step in his leadership," Beilein said with a grin. The Wolverines won for just the second time in 15 games at the Breslin Center. Michigan is the first team since at least the 1996-97 season to win three straight games against top-10 teams in the regular season, according to STATS. The Wolverines, who had never pulled off that feat in school history, were coming off a win against No. 10 Iowa at home after beating then-No. 3 Wisconsin on the road.
"This is a great win for us because of who we were just able to beat," Beilein said. "It's one of the classiest, best programs in the country." Freshman Derrick Walton Jr. scored a season-high 19 and Caris LeVert scored 17 for the Wolverines, who have won nine straight without standout center Mitch McGary.
The Spartans (18-2, 7-1) had won 11 straight since losing to North Carolina at home, but the streak was snapped by their rival soon after another injury-related setback. "The better team won," coach Tom Izzo acknowledged.
Adreian Payne missed a fifth straight game with a sprained right foot and Branden Dawson was out for the first time since the junior forward said he broke his right hand hitting a table. Michigan, though, didn't have any sympathy.
The Wolverines, who lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. early to the NBA, have been playing without McGary because he needed back surgery since losing to No. 1 Arizona in a closely contested game. Michigan State's Gary Harris scored a career-high 27 points and didn't get much help offensively from his team that was without two of its best players. Freshman Alvin Ellis scored a season-high 12 points, surpassing his scoring total from his first seven Big Ten games.
Keith Appling was held to 10 points on 3 of 11 shooting, playing with a wrist injury and bad back. "He just can't shoot right now with that wrist," Izzo said. Michigan turned 11 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points as it outrebounded the Spartans 34-30.
The Wolverines have won five of seven in the series after losing 18 of 21, and Appling took the latest loss hard because he will not play them again at home. "I feel like I lost a close family member," he said softly. "That's how bad it hurts."
Michigan got off to a great start with Stauskas making jumpers, pumping his fist and shouting as he ran back to play defense. The Wolverines started 4 of 4 from the field and led 10-2 before losing the lead midway through the first half as Michigan State's defensive intensity picked up and its crowd began to roar.
Michigan made shots when it needed them most in the second half, scoring 50 points after halftime, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers and 23 of 27 at the line. "You're not going to beat too many teams when they shoot that way," Harris said.
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