MSU geeked for another shot at Michigan

(Max Siker)

After a season sweep, the Spartans get a third shot at the Wolverines with a Big Ten title at stake and Branden Dawson in the lineup -- or as Tom Izzo said "It's Fourth of July and Christmas."

It has been more than 400 days since Branden Dawson has played Michigan and he couldn't be more excited to get a shot at the Wolverines.

The junior missed both meetings in the regular season because of a broken right hand, but a meeting for the Big Ten Tournament championship set for Sunday, he will get his shot.

"It doesn't get any better than this," he said. "We've been talking about this as a team … Since they beat us at home. I wasn't able to play against those guys and I'm definitely ready and excited."

The Spartans were swept by the Wolverines in the regular season, but Saturday's events made way for a third rivalry game – and the first meeting in the 17-year history of the Big Ten Tournament.

Another shot at Michigan might not have been the focus coming to Indianapolis for the Spartans. Just playing in more games and developing chemistry and rhythm were the goals, as well as bringing home a title.

But the bonus of getting a chance to win a title and beat a rival is doubly good if you ask Tom Izzo.

"I told my players, we've got to play three games here," Izzo said. "I thought that was important to get games under our belt and we play three days and, shazam, we get to play our rival.

"It's Fourth of July and Christmas. You get both."

Now, the chance for accomplishing the goal of winning the Big Ten Tournament comes hand in hand with a shot at revenge.

"It's a huge game because it's a championship game," sophomore Matt Costello said. "We are fortunate enough to play our rival who we lost to twice. It's a little bit of redemption."

So as Dawson gets his first crack at the Wolverines, those who played in the first two meetings saw firsthand what went wrong and what must be done differently this time.

"Put our foot down," sophomore Matt Costello said. "Both games we were up in the beginning and we were doing a good job and let them come back a little bit right before halftime and they came out hot and we could never get anything back.

"Just come out hot and stay hot the whole game and it starts on defense because you can't give up fast break layups."

Sophomore Denzel Valentine said it was the way Michigan stayed together when they were losing in the game, while Michigan State got complacent when it took early leads.

"We just went our separate ways," he said. "So just staying together and keeping our energy and intensity up."

The energy and intensity appear to be back for the Spartans, who won back-to-back games Friday and Saturday for the first time since their first loss to Michigan sent them on a downward spiral.

"We just gotta stay focused and come out and play as hard as we can for 40 minutes," senior Keith Appling said.

So now the talk of playing the Wolverines that started after a defeat to Michigan came to fruition and the Spartans – the healthy Spartans – will get a shot to make a statement.

"That was we wanted all along," Costello said. "We wanted to play Michigan again and now we get the opportunity. They've played well all year so it's not a gimme game, but we wanted it because we wanted to redeem ourselves."

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