Sharpshooting Spartans blow by Wolverines, 89-73

Saturday, February 6, 2016 - 4:07pm

Normally, it’s redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson who puts on a 3-point-shooting clinic at Crisler Center.

But Saturday, that role belonged to a different 3-point specialist: Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes.

Forbes connected on his first five attempts from downtown and finished the game with eight 3s on his way to a team-high 29 points, and the 10th-ranked Spartans in total shot a blistering 14-for-22 from beyond the arc in the game to capture the 89-73 victory. The one-sided loss was the Wolverines’ second this week, coming just five days after they allowed a 28-0 run and fell to Indiana.

“It’s very frustrating no matter who we’re playing,” said junior forward Zak Irvin. “But especially Michigan State, we really wanted to win this game ... especially when we’ve got them laughing at us on our home court. These past two games, teams have just punked us. We can’t let that happen.”

National Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine was his usual do-it-all self for Michigan State, flirting with a triple-double with 21 points, eight assists and nine rebounds. Valentine proved difficult to stop even when double-teamed, as he knocked down an improbable rainbow jumper early in the first half with four Michigan hands in his face.

The Wolverines, meanwhile, struggled to find a shooting rhythm, missing their next eight 3-point attempts after junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. knocked down a triple for their first points of the game. They finished 4-for-16 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Michigan (7-4 Big Ten, 17-7 overall) found itself down 32-15 after Forbes’ fifth 3-pointer, but the Wolverines made a late push to cut the lead to 11 following a stretch in which the Spartans lost three turnovers in under two minutes and Forbes missed his first two shots of the game.

The half closed on a 3-point shooting battle between Walton and Forbes, with each player hitting two triples in a 50-second span before Walton missed a shot at the buzzer and sent the Wolverines into the locker room trailing by 16 points. They weren’t able to recover in the second.

Thanks to their two-big man set of freshman Deyonta Davis and senior Matt Costello, the Spartans (7-4, 20-4) also had a significant advantage down low, which they finally exploited in the second frame to put their in-state rival away.

Costello took it to Michigan junior forward Mark Donnal early in the half, scoring the Spartans’ first six points after being limited to just one in the first. Donnal, clearly overmatched, wound up picking up his third foul and sat on the bench for the remainder of the half.

“We have to get to the point where enough is enough,” Irvin said. “We have to have the mentality that we have to play defense in order to win games, especially against these past two opponents that we’ve played. We’re not just gonna beat people by shooting 3s and making jump shots.”

Behind Irvin — who scored 12 points in the second half and a team-high 19 in the game — the Wolverines made a small effort to stay in the game, but a 3-pointer from freshman Matt McQuaid and a steal-turned-fast-break dunk from Costello brought the Spartans’ lead to 69-42 with just over 10 minutes to play.

Costello made a face at the CBS television camera below the basket, knowing the game was effectively over.

He was right. The Spartans hardly let up from there, only allowing a futile 14-2 Michigan run in garbage time to cut the deficit to 16 — the Wolverines’ second straight double-digit home loss.

Michigan was without star senior guard Caris LeVert for the 10th straight game due to injury, but coach John Beilein refused to make any excuses, branding Indiana and Michigan State as elite teams.

The Wolverines have shown glimpses of being able to play with elite teams — it has only been a month since they beat then-No. 3 Maryland at home without LeVert — but they are now left trying to find a way to fix things after getting overwhelmed this week.

“We really just need to do some soul-searching,” Irvin said. “We’ve gotta get back on track. It’s been a tough week for us, and no one’s gonna feel sorry for us. We’re just gonna learn from this experience and move on.”