No. 20 Michigan beats No. 13 Michigan State 79-70, takes over Big Ten lead

The Associated Press

Michigan guard Zak Irvin (21) dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Michigan State in Ann Arbor, Mich., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Nik Stauskas scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, and No. 20 Michigan beat No. 13 Michigan State 79-70 on Sunday to take over first place in the Big Ten.

Caris LeVert added 23 points for the Wolverines (19-7, 11-3), who won both regular-season meetings against their in-state rivals. Michigan has now won six of its last eight against Michigan State.

The Spartans (22-6, 11-4) led by as many as 11 in the first half, but Michigan State was only up 36-34 at halftime. Then Stauskas and LeVert led a second-half charge. The Wolverines trailed 52-51 before going on a decisive 17-4 run that sent the Crisler Center crowd into delirium.

Gary Harris scored 21 points for Michigan State.

Michigan now has a chance to earn its second Big Ten title in three years after tying for the championship in 2012. The Wolverines have home games against Minnesota and Indiana still to come, along with trips to Purdue and Illinois. Michigan State has home games against Illinois and Iowa followed by a trip to Ohio State.

Stauskas was terrific in Michigan's 80-75 win at Michigan State last month, but opposing defenses have geared up to stop him lately, and the 6-foot-6 guard has been reluctant to force things. That all changed in a big way in the second half Sunday.

With the Wolverines down 48-43, Stauskas scored seven straight points to give Michigan the lead. When the Spartans edged back ahead by one, Stauskas answered with a 3-pointer, and it soon become clear that there wasn't much Michigan State could do to keep him from simply shooting over defenders on the perimeter.

A 3-pointer by Stauskas from the right wing put Michigan ahead 59-52, then LeVert added a 3-pointer and a dunk.

With the Spartans wearing down, Jon Horford dunked for Michigan to make it 68-56 — and that ended a stretch of 23 straight Michigan points by Stauskas or LeVert.

Michigan fans serenaded the Spartans with a chant of "little brother" toward the end. The Spartans have battled injuries throughout this season — Adreian Payne and Brandon Dawson missed the first meeting with Michigan. Dawson was still out Sunday with his broken hand, but Payne is back, and he had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Keith Appling, who has been dealing with a wrist problem, scored only six points for Michigan State.

Michigan, of course, has been playing without big man Mitch McGary for over two months, but the Wolverines have overcome his back-related absence thus far. Glenn Robinson III scored 15 points Sunday, including an alley-oop dunk from a driving Stauskas that made it 72-61.

Michigan State made 17 shots from 3-point range in its previous game against Purdue, and the Spartans were locked in early in this one. Payne dunked on freshman Zak Irvin while drawing a foul, and the three-point play gave Michigan State a 22-11 lead.

The Wolverines responded with an immediate 8-0 run — 3-pointers by Spike Albrecht and LeVert, followed by a breakaway dunk by Irvin.

LeVert scored 14 points in the first half, and his 3-pointer in the final seconds cut Michigan State's lead to two.

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