ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Quick thoughts following No. 4 Michigan's 58-57 win over No. 9 Michigan State at the Crisler Center on Sunday.
Overview: Oh, Big Ten Conference, how everything is becoming so crowded.
Indiana clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title on Sunday because of losses by Wisconsin and Michigan State. Those losses sent the rest of the league into a crunch. With one week of regular season play remaining, four teams are tied for second in the Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
It was clear early in this game that this would not be the annihilation Michigan State put on Michigan last month in East Lansing. In that February matchup, the Wolverines were held to a season-low 52 points and were not in the game after the midway point in the first half.
Neither team looked particularly sharp Sunday, but both squads had clearly learned from their first match. Michigan did a good job trapping Adreian Payne in the corner, forcing him to dribble once and then pick it up. Michigan State focused heavily on keeping Trey Burke in the lane, often moving Derrick Nix up toward the middle of the paint early. While this gave Michigan’s post players an easy basket, the Wolverines could rarely get the ball there.
All of it was merely set up, though, for a thrilling finish complete with missed free throws and Burke making two critical steals to give Michigan a much-needed win. The Wolverines had lost four of their past seven games.
Turning point: Burke might have made the play of his team’s season -- and the biggest steal of his career -- with about 25 seconds left. Pressuring Keith Appling in the backcourt, Burke tipped the ball away from Appling cleanly and went in for an uncontested, breakaway two-handed dunk to give Michigan a 58-56 lead with 17.7 seconds left. Nix was fouled on the following possession and made one of two free throws.
Key player: Burke. The sophomore point guard showed why he's a Wooden Award candidate when he stole the ball from Appling and then later swiped the ball at the buzzer to allow the Wolverines to hold on to the win. Burke finished with 21 points, eight assists, five steals and four rebounds.
Key stat: Michigan made no 3-point shots, missing all 12 of its attempts. This is startling because the Wolverines actually won a game -- against a top-10 opponent -- without making a single shot from what is usually their go-to play. Michigan’s stars, Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., went a combined 0-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line.
Miscellaneous: Michigan guard Nik Stauskas left the game early in the first half with a cut over his left eye. Bleeding all over the place, he immediately was taken to the locker room, where he was stitched up. He returned to the bench later in the half. Burke reached the 200-assist plateau -- now at 201 -- in a single season with eight assists Sunday. He is the fourth Michigan player to do that, joining former guards Darius Morris, Gary Grant and Rumeal Robinson. Michigan State has lost three straight games for the first time since Jan. 18-27, 2011, when the Spartans dropped three straight to Illinois, Purdue and Michigan.
Next game: Michigan State continues its long run of Top 25 teams when it faces Wisconsin, fresh off a loss to Purdue, at the Breslin Center on Thursday. Michigan, meanwhile, heads to West Lafayette, Ind., to face those Boilermakers that upset Wisconsin. Worth noting, Michigan hasn’t won on the road since Jan. 27 at Illinois.