MSU looks for revenge against Michigan in B1G tourney semis

NEW YORK “We want Sparty.”

That was the chant that echoed throughout Madison Square Garden from Michigan fans Friday as their team coasted to a 77-58 victory over Nebraska.

On Saturday afternoon, they’ll get their wish, as the rematch both teams’ fans have wanted all season long has come to fruition.

No. 1-seeded Michigan State will take on No. 5-seeded Michigan Saturday afternoon in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. It’s a rematch of the Jan. 13 matchup between the Spartans and Wolverines, which saw the maize and blue come into the Breslin Center and defeat MSU 82-72.

Michigan State (29-3 overall) will enter the contest winners of 13 straight games, the longest winning streak in Division I, whereas Michigan (26-7 overall) has won seven straight.

The two teams come in on the heels of wins Friday, but in very different fashions. The Spartans squeaked by Wisconsin for the second time in seven days with a 63-60 victory after a back-and-forth 40 minutes.

Miles Bridges led the Spartans with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting against Wisconsin and Moritz Wagner had a hearty 20 points and 13 rebounds against the Cornhuskers. In the January game, Bridges had 19 points, while Wagner had a season-high 27 points in his first game back from an ankle injury suffered days prior.

“It’s going to be a big rival game for the tournament to move on to the championship,” Bridges said. “But that’s the type of game you live for.”

Wagner has averaged 14.3 points per game and seven rebounds per game to lead Michigan this season. When asked about the the Saturday showdown against MSU, he was complimentary of the Big Ten regular season champions.

“Michigan State is a very good team that deserves to win the Big Ten Championship the way they play,” Wagner said. “So it’s on tomorrow and it’s a great team.”

[su_pullquote]“Michigan State is a very good team that deserves to win the Big Ten Championship the way they play. So it’s on tomorrow and it’s a great team.” –Moritz Wagner [/su_pullquote]

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman dropped 21 points against Nebraska to lead the Wolverines to victory on Friday afternoon. His 14-point contribution for Michigan against MSU earlier in conference play also proved huge en route to their 10-point win over the Spartans.

“It’s a rivalry game,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Even though it’s postseason, you want to come out and have a sense of urgency and be ready for a fight.”

The one player on either side that welcomed the idea of a rematch more than anybody was Michigan State sophomore Cassius Winston.

“I definitely won’t be disappointed to get another opportunity to go out there,” Winston said. “And I definitely myself got an opportunity to go out there and play against them. I think I dropped the ball the last game […] that’s the type of game you live for.”

Winston had 11 points and two assists in the January matchup against the Wolverines.

Fellow sophomore Josh Langford also was all for a rematch, as he would like to get taste of the eight points and four rebounds outing out of his mouth.

“It’d be exciting,” Langford said about the prospect of facing Michigan. “Another rivalry game, especially in the Big Ten tournament, it’s gonna make it that much more important to play against them […] that’s a rivalry. That means we have redemption, we gotta take advantage of it.”

The knock on Michigan State for much of the second half of the season was their lack of top-tier Big Ten opponents on the schedule and their weak road schedule. A win against Michigan (2 p.m. ET Saturday, CBS) at a neutral site could go a long way in the Spartans’ bid for a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday in a little over a week.

“We know what the rivalry is,” senior co-captain Lourawls Tum Tum Nairn Jr. said. “We’re not trying to downplay that. At this time of the year they all matter the same, doesn’t matter who you play.”