Spartans have no answer for Dickinson, fall to Wolverines 87-70


MSU forward Mady Sissoko battles with Michigan forward Hunter Dickinson for position/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Trent Balley, Sports Editor

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Looking to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, the Michigan State Spartans traveled to Crisler Arena on Tuesday to take on the Michigan Wolverines, who are looking to build a tournament resume of their own. Ultimately, it was the more desperate team coming away with the victory, as Hunter Dickinson led the Wolverines to a 87-70 rivalry win.

The game started in the paint, with Michigan State’s Julius Marble and Michigan’s Dickinson trading post buckets over each other. This set the tone for what would be an inside-heavy first half.

The Wolverines were able to build a 23-11 lead seven minutes into the game thanks to solid defense, prompting MSU coach Tom Izzo to call timeout with his squad shooting 4-for-11 to Michigan’s 9-for-10.

The Spartans broke the ice a bit, finding an all-around scoring effort in the first half with nine different players finding the scoring column. But the Wolverines’ five threes kept the home team in control.

Back-to-back slams from Dickinson and Moussa Diabate gave the Wolverines a 15-point lead with just under five minutes to play in the half. They’d keep their foot on the gas to take a 44-28 lead into halftime, led by Dickinson’s 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Malik Hall was the Spartans’ leader with just five points.

The opening minutes of the second half was all maize and blue, as the home team built its lead up to 55-33 thanks to Dickinson’s dominance in the paint and some nice contributions from Caleb Houstan. 

Senior captain Gabe Brown tried his best to will his Spartans back into the game, scoring a quick eight points in the first 4:25 of the second half. At the under-16 timeout, the Wolverines held onto a 17-point advantage.

A 3-pointer from MSU freshman Jaden Akins and a fastbreak pull-up jumper from Brown cut the Wolverine lead to 13 with nine-and-a-half minutes to play, and Michigan coach Phil Martelli took a timeout. 

DeVante’ Jones knocked down a three out of the timeout, but Mady Sissoko’s post hook and Max Christie’s mid-range jumper shaved a little bit more off the lead at 67-55 with 7:46 to play. But the Wolverines wisely kept feeding Dickinson in the paint, who flexed his muscles after slamming home a baseline jam over Marble.

Though the Spartans gave a respectable effort in the second half, the first-half hole was ultimately far too deep to overcome. They had no answer for Dickinson, who finished with 33 points – 21 in the second half – and nine rebounds.

Elsewhere for the Wolverines, Houstan added 16 points and Jones added nine.

For the Spartans, Brown led the way with 12 points, followed by Tyson Walker with 11 points and four assists. Sissoko also contributed nine points.

The Spartans will have a quick turnaround, heading to Columbus, Ohio to take on the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes on Thursday.

You can follow Trent Balley on Twitter at @TrentBalley and WDBM Sports at @WDBMSports.