The Wolverines improved to 14-2 in conference play, ensuring they will finish with a higher winning percentage than second-place Illinois.
The turning point came with 2:45 left in the first half. After a foul call on Franz Wagner, a flagrant was issued upon review on Michigan State’s Aaron Henry. That was his second foul, and while he sat on the bench, Michigan turned a five-point lead into an 11-point lead before the break.
In the second half, it was all Michigan, which stretched its lead all the way up to 28 with under 10 minutes to play. Michigan State cut into the lead after the benches were cleared, and Michigan won by a 69-50 final.
Nobody expected this Michigan team, which entered the season ranked No. 25 in the AP poll and projected sixth in the conference, to finish atop the most loaded Big Ten in recent memory. But Juwan Howard’s team dominated from start to finish, winning its first 11 games and then another seven in a row after a loss at Minnesota.
Thursday was an important bounce-back game for Michigan after it lost by 23 points against Illinois two days prior.
It doesn’t get much better for Michigan’s seniors, who got to hang a banner and celebrate a conference title in front of their most hated rival.
The two teams will meet again Sunday in East Lansing for the final game of the regular season.