EAST LANSING – AJ Hoggard delivered in the biggest moments, and Michigan State basketball took out rival Michigan for the fifth straight year at the Breslin Center.
The junior point guard scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half, finishing with six assists and four rebounds, as the Spartans held off a late Wolverines rally for a 59-53 victory Saturday afternoon in the first of two meetings this season between the schools.
Malik Hall also scored 15 points despite rolling his injured left foot just before halftime. Tyson Walker had 14 points and Joey Hauser shook off a 3-for-13 shooting performance to finish with seven points and 10 rebounds for MSU (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten), which has won six straight.
The victory is the end of a five-game homestand for the Spartans, who travel to Wisconsin on Tuesday (7 pm/ESPN) for their first road game since a Dec. 7 wins at Penn State.
The Spartans handled Hunter Dickinson for most of the afternoon, although he finished with a game-high 18 on 8-for-16 shooting with seven rebounds. Kobe Bufkin added 15 points and Jett Howard 10 for the Wolverines, who shot 15% (3-for-20) from 3-point range and shot just 34.5% overall. Michigan (9-6, 3-1) travels to Iowa on Thursday (7 pm/ESPN2).
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The first half turned into an offensive slog, complete with missed shot after missed shot and turnover after turnover. The Spartans opened the game 1-for-9, and UM amid its own shooting struggles took a 7-3 lead on a 3-pointer by Jett Howard and a deep jumper by Terrance Williams II a little over six minutes into the period.
Hoggard helped get MSU back on track with a spin move to shake a few Wolverines for an open layup and then a lob to Mady Sissoko for a dunk to tie it and force Michigan coach Juwan Howard to call timeout.
Both teams played strong defensively, particularly Sissoko’s job on Dickinson. MSU’s junior forced the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week away from the block after his Michigan counterpart scored the first bucket on a hook shot over him. But Dickinson made just one of five shots after that for four points with three rebounds in 14:10 of first-half action, while Sissoko had five rebounds in his 13-plus minutes.
The Wolverines went 7-for-26 (26.9%) in the first 20 minutes, making just one of nine from 3-point range. The Spartans weren’t much better, making nine of 28 overall and four of 11 from deep, but they had a 10-0 edge on the break in the opening period.
Hall went on his own seven-point minirun as part of a 15-6 run over the final 7:20. But a play at the end of the half aggravated an injury to his left foot that kept him out for eight games in November and December.
Walker’s layup attempt got blocked by U-M’s Isaiah Barnes and headed toward the sideline as the final seconds ticked away. Hall gave chase and took a hip check from Jace Howard in front of the Wolverines’ bench, and Hall rolled his left ankle before falling into the chairs. He cringed in pain while working to tighten his shoe, then hit the ensuing two free throws with 0.5 seconds to go that sent MSU into halftime with a 27-18 lead.
Hoggard again made his presence felt out of the locker room, using a ball fake after a Spartans offensive rebound to free himself up for a wide-open 3-pointer, helped force UM into a shot-clock violation on its first possession, then set up Hauser for a jumper. That forced Juwan Howard to call timeout just 1:22 into the half, with MSU’s lead swelling to 14 points.
The Wolverines went right to Dickinson out of a timeout for a bucket. Then after Sissoko missed a dunk off a lob from Akins, Bufkin hit a free throw and then Dickinson scored over Sissoko for a 5-0 answer.
But the Spartans pulled away again, with Hoggard and Walker continuing their strong all-around play. Hoggard hit a layup in heavy traffic, and Walker zipped around Dickinson in a one-on-one mismatch, scoring a high-arcing, left-handed scoop over the 7-foot-1 center. Hall returned and added a layup, and Hoggard hit two more free throw-line jumpers to give MSU a 42-28 lead with 8:57 left.
The Wolverines bounced back behind Dickinson and Bufkin, who combined to score all but two points in a 14-5 run over 3½ minutes. MSU went to a small lineup after Sissoko picked up his fourth foul with 6:44 left, but Dickinson scored over Hauser and Bufkin went baseline for another layup. Izzo called timeout with 4:23 remaining, the Spartans’ lead down to 47-41.
After UM cut it to four, MSU got an offensive board to set up Hall, who dribbled in for an elbow jumper. Then after Dickinson split a pair of free throws, Hauser tipped in his own miss off an inbound pass to put the Spartans back in front 51-44 with 1:42 to play. Michigan called timeout, then got a pair of Bufkin free throws.
But Hoggard answered again, penetrating the paint and hitting a floater with 1:05. That proved important, as Bufkin drew a foul on Hoggard at the other end while shooting a 3-pointer but made just 2 of 3 ensuing free throws.
Hall hit a pair of free throws with 29.8 left, but Bufkin drove for an uncontested dunk to make it a five-point game with 23.6 ticks.
Walker hit two free throws, but Dickinson answered with a 3-pointer with 12.2 to play. Walker missed a 1-and-1 free throw but got a hand in Dickinson’s face on a 3-point airball. Akins got the rebound and hit two free throws with 0.1 left to seal the MSU win.
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