Derrick Walton Jr.
Feb. 22, 2014
By Jenny Herstein, U-M Public & Media Relations
Earlier in the season, the instate rivals met as the only two undefeated teams remaining in Big Ten play. Michigan won the 80-75 decision at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Now, Michigan (10-3 Big Ten) will host Michigan State (11-3 Big Ten) in front of a sold-out crowd at Crisler Center to again determine who will remain on top of the conference.
In the previous meeting, U-M came out to an early lead, but were stymied by a tough Spartan defense and trailed for most of the game. Then, in a back-and-forth second half, a Nik Stauskas three-pointer with 3:12 remaining gave the Wolverines a lead they would never relinquish. The win was U-M's third straight over a top-10 ranked opponent and was just the second time Michigan defeated a top-five ranked MSU unit.
Derrick Walton Jr. set a new career high in the game with 19 points on 4-of-7 shooting, adding five rebounds and four assists. He converted a career-best 9-of-10 free throw attempts, including going 8-of-9 from the charity stripe in the final 2:30. Stauskas finished 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-6 from downtown. The sophomore also chipped in 4 assists.
"We played really well," said head coach John Beilein. "We made tough shots, we made guarded shots. But our defense was really good."
"We kept them off the offensive glass, we got to their shooters," said sophomore Caris LeVert. "I think that will be key in the game this weekend."
"We were fearless and we stuck together the whole time no matter how things were going," added Stauskas. "They made some runs in the first half. We just never stopped battling. We stayed composed and everyone made big plays."
Michigan State senior Adreian Payne, who missed the matchup in East Lansing due to an injury, has returned to the roster and should see time against the Wolverines.
"It's really hard to guard teams that can go inside and outside at their five position," said John Beilein. "We've got to just find ways to get there. A lot of hustle plays involved, a lot of early reads you have to make. You have to take some chances here and there."
Both teams will have plenty of motivation on Sunday afternoon (Feb. 23). MSU will be looking to get revenge against Michigan for their home defeat earlier in the season, while the Wolverines look to bounce back from a tough home loss against Wisconsin.
"Wisconsin was really good," Beilein said of last week's loss. "We've got to be quicker in some areas. We have to see things happening a bit earlier. We have to play with a certain sense of urgency in those games."
Michigan hopes to renew that sense of urgency against their rivals. The last two games at Crisler Center against the Spartans have ended in one-possession wins for the Wolverines.
"These are two teams that will give every ounce of their energy to try and win this game," said Beilein. "They're leaving it all on that floor for this particular game."
The game at Crisler Center will also be a Maize Out. All fans in attendance are encouraged to wear maize to strengthen the home atmosphere and urge the Wolverines to victory.