MSU wins B1G Tournament Championship

Michigan State guard Gary Harris (14) and Michigan guard Nik Stauskas (11) battle for a loose ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Big Ten Conference tournament on Sunday, March 16, 2014, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Adreian Payne scored 18 points and Gary Harris and Branden Dawson added 15 each to lead No. 22 Michigan State to its second Big Ten tournament title in three years with a 69-55 upset of No. 8 Michigan on Sunday.

The third-seeded Spartans (26-8) are getting healthy and will have some momentum entering the NCAA tournament with four wins in five games.

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“Let me tell you, we beat two great teams. Both of them are worthy of a one seed,” coach Tom Izzo told CBS, referring to the Wolverines and No. 12 Wisconsin. “I hope they don’t drop much because they are both deserving. Those guys have done it all year long.”

Top-seeded Michigan (25-8) was led by Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas with 17 points and Derrick Walton Jr. had 11, but the Big Ten regular season champs had their seven-game winning streak come to an end.

It was never really close.

Michigan State took control with an early 12-0 run, led 38-29 at halftime and opened the second half with an 8-0 spurt to make it 46-29.

Michigan never got closer than 10 points again.

The Spartans had lost their previous two meetings with Michigan this season but weren’t about to lose again Sunday.

For the first time all season, Michigan State started the same five players for a fifth straight game. Harris, who hurt his left shoulder early in the second half, returned later.

Harris, an Indiana native who never got to play for a state basketball title at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, took advantage of this opportunity. He scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Dawson, another Indiana native who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half.

Michigan State has four tournament titles since the Big Ten started the event in 1998 — two in Indy and pulled off a rare double by winning the men’s basketball title less than a mile from Lucas Oil Stadium where the Spartans also claimed the league’s football championship in December.

He’s always had a preference for playing in Indy — and with good reason.

“Indy’s been good to us,” he said. “We won a national championship here, our football team this year won the conference championship along with a basketball championship. But maybe most important, we’re playing a lot better.”

Michigan, meanwhile, will be waiting to see if this ugly loss could cost it a No. 1 seed in next week’s NCAA tournament.

The Wolverines, who narrowly escaped with wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals, were not their usually strong shooting selves as they played for the third time in three days. They avoided matching their season-low point total when Zak Irvin hit a 3 with 15.9 seconds to go and their shooting percentage (31.5) nearly matched a season low, too. Michigan shot 31.1 percent from the field in a 63-61 loss to Charlotte on Nov. 24. And they were outrebounded 38-28.

Michigan’s problems started early.

The Spartans went on a 12-0 run to take a 16-9 lead — and never gave it up.

They led by as much as 25-14 in the first half, getting Michigan’s top two big men — Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford — into early foul trouble. Coach John Beilein even was called for a technical foul midway through a dreadful half.

Harris finished it off emphatically by taking a pass at midcourt and driving right through Michigan’s defense for a one-handed dunk to make it 38-29.

Things didn’t get any better for Michigan in the second half.

Michigan State scored the first eight points to make it 46-29, then closed it out with a late 10-4 run that extended the lead to 69-52.

“We were so much better defensively in this whole tournament,” Izzo said. “When you defend you get to run and when we run, we’re a better team.”

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