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Sunday, February 5, 2012
Spartans' defense shuts down Michigan

By Chantel Jennings

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Rarely does Michigan basketball coach John Beilein's offense appear stale. But rarely have his Wolverines executed as poorly as they did against No. 10 Michigan State on Sunday.

In a 64-54 loss at the Breslin Center, No. 22 Michigan's offense never strung together more than a few possessions looking efficient and effective. Instead, the Wolverines turned the ball over 10 times and had one of their lowest scoring outputs of the season.

The Spartans were able to shut them down by pushing play outside, effectively shutting down the Wolverines' pick-and-roll offense that they've relied heavily upon this season. Without the pick-and-roll, the catalyst of their offense, Michigan never got going offensively.

"They do a good job at it," Beilein said of the Spartans' high-ball screen defense. "He [freshman point guard Trey Burke] is still learning to read it over and over again. I thought he had some really good opportunities that he used and then he had some really good opportunities that he’ll learn from and be able to do better."

While it was sophomore guard Keith Appling who matched up with Burke, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo pointed out sophomore center Adreian Payne and junior center Derrick Nix as two of his players who had impressive defensive performances, saying their presence in the center of the floor allowed Michigan never to get too deep into the paint.

Izzo said the Spartans' plan with the ball screen was to help, but never leave their player or double completely, along with staying in between the Wolverines and the basket -- basic defensive principles.

"The two things we thought were most important were get back in transition and make them beat us in their half-court game and then cover that ball screen with Burke, because they're running that a lot more in their offense," Izzo said. "I thought we did a decent job of it. It was by committee. It was one of those games where I thought they followed the game plan about as good as they could’ve followed it."

By forcing Burke outside with hard hedges at the top of the key, Burke was never able to penetrate the lane, where he makes all of his passes to get the easy assists or layups.

Rarely did Burke turn the corners on Sunday like he did the last time the rivals met. And the few times that he did, the Wolverines were unable to finish in the paint or from range, going 19-for-48 from the floor. Michigan State's length allowed them to easily pick up rebounds, and the Wolverines quickly found themselves playing defense again.

"Our defense and our rebounding, which is the staple of every great program, was the thing that kept us in the game," Izzo said.

It didn't just keep the Spartans in the game. It won them the game. And made Michigan look like a team that couldn't find its offensive principles in East Lansing.