ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP)—Michigan fans rushed the court to celebrate a rare victory over rival Michigan State.
Daniel Horton scored 23 points and the Wolverines held on for a 72-67 win on Wednesday night, beating the 11th-ranked Spartans for the second time in 14 meetings.
“It’s a big win for our Big Ten championship hopes,” Horton said.
If the Wolverines (14-3, 4-2) beat No. 23 Wisconsin at home on Saturday, they will move into a first-place tie in the conference.
“That means a lot because we can put ourselves in a position to do something special if we continue to play well,” Horton said.
Michigan led by seven points with 2:37 left, overcoming large deficits in the first half and early in the second.
The Spartans (15-5, 3-3) pulled within two, but Michigan State’s Paul Davis had a shot blocked in the lane and missed a 3-pointer in the final minute.
Maurice Ager, who led the Spartans with 18 points, missed a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left and Dion Harris sealed the victory with two free throws.
“It didn’t come down to those last few possessions, it was how we played in the second half,” Davis said.
Michigan State led by as many as 13 points in the first half, and nine in the second.
“It was a game that slipped away,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Give credit to them, they deserved to win.”
The Wolverines took their first lead since the opening minute with nine straight points, capped by Chris Hunter’s 3-pointer midway through the second half.
With pressure defense, balanced scoring and a raucous crowd, Michigan kept the lead and went ahead 64-56 on Horton’s third 3-pointer with 5:54 left.
The Wolverines won their first game against a ranked opponent—ending an eight-game losing streak—despite missing standout Lester Abram, who was out with a sprained ankle.
Michigan hasn’t been ranked since 1998, the last time it advanced to the NCAA tournament.
“We haven’t been in the Top 25, hopefully this will help us get there,” Michigan’s Graham Brown said.
Ron Coleman, Abram’s replacement, scored nine points—one off his season high. Abram said he would play against the Badgers.
Hunter had 13 points and Brown added 10—each senior doubling previous averages—to make up for Courtney Sims being limited to four points.
“I thought our veterans led the way for us with a lot of toughness and heart,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel scored 15 points and Shannon Brown had 13. Davis was held to 10 points, though he joined Greg Kelser as the only two players in school history with 1,500 points and 800 rebounds.
The Wolverines have won three straight, while the Spartans had won three in a row.
Michigan’s only other win in the previous 13 meetings was on Jan. 26, 2003, also at home.
The Wolverines went to the free throw line more often, and took advantage of it. They were 27-of-34 at the line while Michigan State was 6-of-10.
“Officiating, I question,” Izzo said. “The 34-10 discrepancy really hurt us. It didn’t cost us the game, or cause the turnovers.
“I’m sitting here crying about the officiating. I did not like the way it was called. But I’m allowed to dispute that without getting personal.”
Michigan started strong, with Horton scoring on a fadeaway jumper and a 3-pointer in the first 30 seconds then the Wolverines didn’t have a field goal for nearly 5 minutes.
The Spartans went on a 25-7 run—keyed by four 3-pointers—and they maintained a big lead until Michigan scored the last four points of the first half, pulling within seven.
After Michigan State opened the second half with a basket to take a 41-32 lead, Brown made two baskets and Coleman had a steal and a basket to pull the Wolverines within three.
Hunter started Michigan’s lead-changing run with a putback off his own miss and scored seven of nine points to put the Wolverines ahead 48-45 with 11:14 to go.
Michigan State had trouble running plays against the scrappy Wolverines— after shooting 59 percent in the first half—leading to 17 turnovers.
“We couldn’t get into the stuff we wanted to do,” Ager said.