East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - With three straight wins over top-10 opponents, the Michigan Wolverines are sure to get a big jump in the polls come next week.
The latest triumph was one the Maize and Blue will savor for the next few days.
Nik Stauskas and Derrick Walton, Jr. both scored 19 points to power the No. 21 Wolverines to an 80-75 road victory over third-ranked Michigan State.
It was just a week ago that the Wolverines upended then-No. 3 Wisconsin. Then came a 75-67 win at home over No. 10 Iowa Wednesday night.
"The rankings right now are the rankings. You don't know who's going to be there in March; it's just projections," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "I know we beat three really good teams. It's three teams that I think will be in the top-four or five in the Big Ten. To beat those, that's what really means a lot because now you have a game up on them in some regard for the Big Ten Championship, which to every coach in this league is what we're trying to do. The national stuff, forget about it. It's about the Big Ten right now."
Caris LeVert posted 17 points in Michigan's ninth straight victory. The Wolverines (15-4, 7-0 Big Ten) are winning despite being without the services of Mitch McGary, who remains sidelined following back surgery.
Gary Harris had 27 points for the Spartans (18-2, 7-1), whose only other defeat came Dec. 4 against North Carolina. Alvin Ellis III added 12 points and Keith Appling scored 10 and had 10 assists, as the Spartans had their 11-game winning streak broken.
The Wolverines were behind 60-58 with over four minutes left, but went ahead for good by scoring the next 10 points. Walton capped the burst with a three- point play and then a pair of free throws.
The big play during the spurt came when Appling had his layup attempt swatted away by Jon Horford. Walton raced the other way and plowed into Travis Trice before the layup bounced off the rim and fell through. The resulting foul shot made it 66-60, and he then buried two from the charity stripe with 1:58 to go.
"In general, they made a couple of big threes late," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "One time, we didn't switch out so we had different lineups in there. One time, they just made one and it was a good shot. The one on the breakout or the layup by Appling was a critical one; it could've gone either way. It was 60-63 and they got the breakaway right after that."
The Spartans were able to get the deficit to 78-75 following two Appling foul shots, but LeVert made a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining to seal the outcome.
Michigan raced to a 10-2 lead, but the Spartans responded with an ensuing 19-6 spurt. The hosts led 36-30 at the half and were in front by as many as eight in the second stanza before Michigan finally went back in front at 55-54 on Horford's layup with 7:14 to play.