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Published September 13, 2015
Michigan coach John Beilein tapped Tim Hardaway Jr. on the leg, suggesting the guard take some shots during halftime warmups after a scoreless first half.
Hardaway chose to stay on the bench and then stretched out for the second half.
Perhaps he figured the game was already decided.
Hardaway matched a career low with two points as No. 8 Michigan State routed the fourth-ranked Wolverines 75-52 on Tuesday night, the rivalry's first matchup of top 10 teams.
"They bullied us — point blank," he said.
Yes, the Spartans did.
Michigan State was stronger and quicker while playing with a sense of urgency from the start before showing some mercy in the final minutes.
The Spartans (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) broke a first-place tie in the conference with No. 1 Indiana, which plays at Michigan State next Tuesday.
"We probably played our best game in three years," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "And, they probably played one of their worst."
"That was the worst we've played in a long, long time and credit Michigan State for that," he said.
The Spartans didn't trail once, led by as many as 16 points in the first half and enjoyed 30-point leads in the second half. The game was so lopsided that both coaches filled the court with reserves during the final minutes.
Michigan (21-4, 8-4) has lost three of four, but the closely contested setbacks on the road against the Hoosiers and Wisconsin were nothing like the latest when it was held to a season-low point total and had a season-high 16 turnovers.
Trey Burke scored 18 points for the Wolverines and didn't get much help from his teammates offensively, or defensively.
Hardaway, in particular, struggled in starting fashion. He made a layup early in the second half for his first points and didn't score again. He was 1 of 11 from the field.
"He's been playing as good as any guard in the country — any guard," Izzo said. "We got lucky. He got unlucky."
Glen Robinson III was 1 of 4 and scored two points to match his season low for Michigan.
The Wolverines, who pride themselves on taking care of the basketball, didn't have much success getting the ball away from the turnover-prone Spartans.
Everything went right for Michigan State, which had just eight turnovers and made 48-plus percent of its shots.
Gary Harris scored 17 points, making five 3-pointers, and Derrick Nix had his way on the inside, scoring 14 points as part of a balanced offense.
Keith Appling had 11 points and Branden Dawson scored 10 before leaving the court late in the game because Michigan's Mitch McGary hit him in the face inadvertently with his right arm. Freshman Matt Costello scored a season-high eight points.
Michigan State has won two straight in the series after losing three in a row following a run of dominance for the Spartans.
The highly anticipated game drew Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio, who mingled with Michigan football coach Brady Hoke, as they stood near ex-Wolverines football coach Lloyd Carr.
The white-clad fans in the stands were fired up before the game even started and they stayed enthusiastic, standing for much of the game, because the home team gave them plenty of reasons to cheer from start to finish.
In the first matchup of 20-win teams in Division I basketball this season, Michigan State showed it might not be a rebuilding this season.
Michigan, meanwhile, has been humbled since being ranked No. 1 last month for the first time since the 1992-92 season.
"We have to learn a lot from this game," Beilein said.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage