Fifty-one point losses don”t come very often, especially in rivalries. So while Michigan head coach Brian Ellerbe reminded his team of last year”s 114-63 debacle at Michigan State after Saturday”s 72-65 win over Northwestern, he didn”t need to.
“It”s up on the board and we do think about it,” sophomore shooting guard Gavin Groninger said. “It”s not a good memory for us.”
“I can remember 51,” freshman Bernard Robinson said. “I can guarantee you that won”t happen again. We want to be in it at the end.”
If they are, the Wolverines will have impressed quite a few onlookers. But at a school where there are no moral victories, close won”t get it done, especially considering the Spartans have won the last seven meetings.
“It”s a great opportunity for us (to prove ourselves). We”re really peaking and we”re going to show people that we”re a better team than people think we are,” junior guard Leon Jones said.
One month prior to the debacle in East Lansing marked the downfall of Michigan”s season. That was the game when Maize Ragers expected their headbanded hero, Jamal Crawford, to lead them to victory, only to be disappointed seeing him in street clothes. Crawford had broken an NCAA amateurism rule while he was in high school. The Wolverines fought valiantly that night but were outmatched, and lost by (only) 20. Crawford never played in a Michigan uniform again.
“It was tough for us to deal with that game,” Groninger said. “The two times we played them last year left a sour taste in my mouth.”
While Groninger had a sour taste in his mouth, things couldn”t get much sweeter for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. But it wasn”t always this way. Michigan leads the series, 88-61, and until the last three years, has had the upper-hand in recent history.
Most of Michigan”s first memories of the rivalry center around the early 90″s, when the Fab Five was starring for Michigan, and Sean Respert and Mike Pepolowski played for Michigan State.
The rivalry really heated up when Chris Webber and Juwan Howard danced and pretended to defile themselves on the Spartans” “S” logo at midcourt after a Michigan overtime win in 1992.
But those days of Michigan dominance are long gone. Even though the shoe is now on the other foot, Izzo is still concerned about tonight”s game.
“We”ve got a tough job ahead of us, going to Michigan,” Izzo said.