Big Ten Insider: Mich. schools make run at Big Ten

Matt Forman

Since its embarrassing 35-point loss at the hands of then-No. 1 North Carolina, Michigan State’s recent success can be described in one way: Dominant.

The Spartans, ranked 10th in the nation, have gone 9-0 since that loss in early December, winning games by an average margin of 17 points. The closest margin of victory during their current run was a four-point victory over then-No. 5 Texas.

“As I say all the time, you better be bringing your A, A-minus or B-plus game every night or you’re going to be walking away with a loss,” coach Tom Izzo said.

Michigan State, at 3-0, has brought their A-game consistently and is the only team with a perfect record in the conference contests.

The Spartans are off to a 13-2 start, thanks to their multi-faceted style of play. Led by Raymar Morgan (7.1 rebounds per game) and Goran Suton (6.1), Michigan State is out-rebounding opponents by a margin of 16 boards per game.

And while Morgan and Suton are crashing the glass, Kalin Lucas is doing the work from beyond the arc. The sophomore guard is shooting nearly 46 percent from 3-point land.

“Kalin Lucas is playing pretty good basketball since Big Ten season has started,” associate head coach Mark Montgomery said.

In conference play, Lucas is averaging 20 points and four assists per game. His stellar play garnered Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Michigan State meets Penn State and Illinois this week.

No More Malaise and Blue – A season after winning just nine games, No. 24 Michigan has reversed its fortunes in the 2008-09 season. The Wolverines already have four more wins, 13, than all of last season combined.

Big Blue registered upset wins over then-No. 4 UCLA and No. 4 Duke in their nonconference slate and is off to a 3-1 start in the Big Ten. Last year, the team won just five conference games.

And after a disappointing 12-point loss at home to kick off their Big Ten schedule, the Wolverines have won three straight, including a 20-point come-from-behind win over Indiana.

Despite his team’s struggles against Indiana, coach John Beilein said his team did not come out flat, but learned from the contest.

“I don’t think there are any wake-up calls,” Beilein said. “Basketball is going to be tough no matter where you’re playing or who you’re playing.”

Michigan has stifled offenses with its staunch 1-3-1 zone defense, a system similar to that of Northwestern. In the last three wins, Michigan has allowed an average of just fewer than 60 points per game.

The zone defensive scheme allows Michigan to create turnovers, and the team features a plus-3.38 turnover margin thus far, third best in the conference. The Wolverines have also held their opponents to just 30 percent from long distance.

Michigan has a road contest with Illinois tonight and meets Ohio State on Saturday.

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