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Spartans cruise to Big Ten tournament title

By McClatchy Tribune

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:35 p.m. HST, Mar 16, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS >> Gary Harris got past Glenn Robinson III, put a crossover dribble on Max Bielfeldt, threw down a ferocious dunk over Spike Albrecht and couldn't be stopped until Tom Izzo met him near halfcourt with an emphatic hand slap.

"That's what I'm (expletive) talking about!" Izzo screamed at Harris, his face contorted, intensity pouring out of him and giving an indication of what the day meant to him.

Michigan State badly wanted to beat Michigan in the Big Ten tournament championship game, to avenge two regular-season losses and finish a weekend of revival - and that's what the Spartans did, in no-doubt-about-it, dominating fashion, 69-55.

"Give our kids a lot of credit, give my assistant coaches a lot of credit," Izzo told the Spartan Sports Network of Michigan State's defensive preparation. "The game prep was off the charts."

It's the fourth Big Ten tournament title for Michigan (26-8) and it completed a long look at just how dangerous the Spartans could be in the upcoming NCAA tournament, now that they're healthy and clicking - though Harris later took a hit to the left shoulder that bothered him all of last season and appeared to be in pain for much of the second half.

He still managed to score 15 points near his hometown of Fishers, Ind., and play top-notch defense on Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (4-for-14, 17 points). Adreian Payne scored 18 points for Michigan State and Branden Dawson continued his huge weekend for the Spartans.

Dawson, who missed both of Michigan State's regular-season losses to Michigan with a broken hand, had 15 points, six rebounds, high-flying dunks and terrific defense. He was the Spartans' best all-around player in the tournament.

Michigan (25-8) shot just 31.5 percent as a team after scorching the Spartans in the first two meetings.

Michigan started hot and Michigan State started cold, but the Spartans took charge of the game with a 12-0 run. Harris had seven of those points, a jumper, three-pointer and dunk, and the Spartans led 16-9.

That lead would grow from there. It got to 25-14 after a tough Keith Appling layup and a technical foul called on Michigan coach John Beilein. The Wolverines got it back down to seven, but the Harris dunk made it 38-29 at the half -- and the Spartans blew things open as soon as the second started.

Michigan State scored the first eight after the break, the last two on a Dawson breakaway slam of the windmill variety. That made it 46-29, and it was keep-away from there. The Wolverines, who stormed back in the second halves of both regular-season wins, never got the lead down to single digits.

"Give Keith Appling credit, he's starting to play like the guy he was earlier in the year," Izzo told the Spartan Sports Network. "I couldn't be happier for him.






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