February 18, 1999
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - It's bad enough to be dominated by an archrival. It's a lot worse when that opponent's fans take over your building.
That's what happened Thursday night as Mateen Cleaves scored 19 points and No. 4 Michigan State clinched at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a 73-58 victory over Michigan.
"We've got great fan support and I'm just glad to get to play in front of it," Cleaves said.
Crisler Arena, which only a few years ago was home to the Fab Five, seldom sells out these days. As a result, there were plenty of tickets available, and Michigan State fans snapped them up and made the 90-minute trip from East Lansing.
When the teams ran onto the court for the introductions, the roar was louder for the Spartans than for Michigan.
"It was unbelievable," said Jason Klein, who scored 11 points for the Spartans (24-4, 13-1). "It seemed like we had the whole upper bowl."
The Wolverines (10-16, 4-9) probably knew very early they had a real problem.
During a timeout, with the Wolverines leading 14-9, the Michigan cheerleaders threw T-shirts into the crowd. Just before play was to resume, one of the shirts came sailing back out of the stands, landing just short of midcourt.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo loved that.
"Part of building a great program is having fan support," Izzo said. "Duke doesn't win just because they're Duke. They win because it's a tough place to play."
In other games involving ranked teams Thursday, it was: No. 7 Stanford 89, Washington 57; No. 8 Arizona 89, Oregon State 72; and No. 12 Utah 71, San Jose State 49.
The Spartans, who extended their school-record winning streak to 13 games, can take the conference title outright by winning one of their final two games, against Wisconsin or Purdue. They also would earn sole possession if Northwestern defeats Ohio State on Saturday.
"We were happy and we jumped around a little bit," Cleaves said. "But the job's not finished yet."
Last year, a late season loss to Purdue forced the Spartans to share the title with Illinois.
Louis Bullock had 15 points for Michigan, which was held to 39 percent shooting (18-of-46). The Wolverines, who were just 2-of-8 from 3-point range, led only briefly.
"They were extremely physical, and they had a big incentive to win," Bullock said. "When you have a chance to win the Big Ten title, that's going to make them be at their best."
Each time the Wolverines looked like they might make a run, Michigan State responded with big rebounds and transition baskets. And each time, Crisler sounded more and more like Breslin Center. The Spartans finished with a 36-24 edge in rebounds, 25-18 at the defensive end.
With Charlie Bell and Cleaves each scoring four points, the Spartans took a 43-30 lead early in the second half. But five points by Josh Asselin keyed a 12-5 Michigan burst that narrowed the gap to 48-42.
Still, the Spartans were patient and, with Andre Hutson scoring five points, they stretched the lead to 61-50 with 5:02 left.
"At times like that, you hope the other team is frustrated and you can take advantage," said Robbie Reid, who scored 13 points for Michigan. "They did a good job of regrouping quickly."
The Wolverines hurt themselves with some horrible shooting down the stretch, going almost five minutes without a basket until Bullock hit a 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining for the final margin.
"I'm disappointed in our team to no end," Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe said. "I'm embarrassed about our effort. We played like we didn't know what to do out there, and there's no excuse for that.
"We lost to a very good basketball team, but we did not think the game tonight. We came out with emotion, but we didn't play smart."
With the kind of roll the Spartans are on, it might not have mattered. It was their fourth game in a seven-day stretch, yet the Spartans never looked tired.
The win completed a series sweep for the Spartans, who started their winning streak with an 81-67 over Michigan on Jan. 9 in East Lansing.
"It's good (to gain a share of the title)," Cleaves said. "But we've got a couple more to go so we've got to stay focused."
By HARRY ATKINS
AP Sports Writer