This week in Assist Map Mondays, we take a look at a rivalry game between two top 10 teams. On Saturday, March 9th, the #9 Michigan State Spartans defeated the #7 Michigan Wolverines 75-63 in East Lansing.
Saturday’s game marked the second meeting between the two teams this season, as Michigan State beat their rivals on the road on February 24. Both teams are relatively balanced on both sides of the ball, as the Spartans currently rank 4th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency and 9th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and the Wolverines rank 18th in offensive and 2nd in defense.
Despite falling behind early, the Spartans were able to turn it around in the second half and win comfortably. A key factor in the game was the free throw disparity, as Michigan State had 30 attempts compared to Michigan’s seven. The Spartans were able to convert 23 of their 30 opportunities (76.7%), which is right around their season average of 74.5%. The Wolverines predictably fell into foul trouble, with leading scorer Ignas Brazdeikis fouling out with five minutes remaining in the game.
While Michigan State is typically a great passing team—their assist percentage of 67.8% ranks first in the nation—they did not record as many assists as usual. Part of that can be explained by their high free throw numbers, but they did only assist on 12 of their 23 made field goals (52.2%). Nonetheless, junior point guard Cassius Winston led the team with seven of the 12 assists. Three of them went to senior forward Kenny Goins, two went to sophomore big man Xavier Tillman, and the rest went to senior guard Matt McQuaid and freshman forward Aaron Henry. Henry also contributed with two assists—one each to Tillman and freshman big man Thomas Kithier.
With this win, the Spartans clinched the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan, on the other hand, dropped to the #3 seed with the loss. Both teams stand to gain high seeds in the NCAA Tournament as well—Joe Lunardi had both teams as two seeds prior to their Saturday meeting.