Stauskas Wouldn't be 'Contained'

Nik Stauskas / USA TODAY Sports

STORY: Nik Satuskas scored 25 points in No. 20 Michigan's 79-70 win over No. 13 MSU on Sunday.He talks about his aggressive play inside.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Nik Satuskas picked a good time to come back on the college basketball scene.

And against his rivals – no less.

After a month of struggling to find the bottom of the net, Stuaskas scored 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting -- including 3-of-5 from three-point range -- as he led No. 20 Michigan to a 79-70 victory over No. 13 Michigan State Sunday in front of a sold out crowd at the Crisler Center.

Stauskas scored 21 of his 25 points in the second-half. His play was pivotal in Michigan's second half surge, which saw the Wolverines take a commanding 64-52 lead with 7:21 remaining. A lead, they would never relinquish.

"I just came out in the second-half with the mindset that I wasn't going to be stopped," Stauskas said. "I tried to be really aggressive. Coach (John) Beilein ran some sets for me just to have some one-on-one positions. Once I hit a couple shots -- it kept going from there."

Michigan (19-7, 11-3 Big Ten) had lost two of its last three conference games heading into their pivotal rivalry game against Michigan State (22-6, 11-4). And key part of Wolverines' struggles was Stauskas' lack of aggression offensively. And after taking only three shots in the first-half, it looked like it would be the same struggles all over again.

However, this time it would be different. This time Satuskas told himself he wouldn't be stopped by the Spartans defense based on past experiences.

"(In the) first-half I only took three shots," Stauskas said. "I think I have experienced so much, where every game it seems like I am being contained. I kind of came out and said ‘I'm done with this. I'm not going to be contained anymore.'"

Part of that mentality to be more aggressive came from his coach.

"We're just encouraging him to be more aggressive," Beilein said. "Aggressive usually means driving the ball. You know, shooters shoot when they are open, sometimes what is a bad shot for others, is a really good shot for him."

"He took over the second-half," said Glenn Robinson III. "He hit some tough shots. We see that all the time, but I haven't seen it like that in a game in a while. I am just happy to see him hit those type of shots. I know he can and that opened everything else."

On the season, Stauskas averages 16.7 points, and at times he is looking for a "perfect" shot, said Beilien.

"He is looking for a perfect play all the time. And shooters got to shoot it," Beilien said. "I mean, he is a tremendous shooter. Whether he is turning (down shots) off the dribble lately, because maybe he is looking for something else. We wanted him to shoot the ball."

And maybe now, Satuskas has taken that next step to be where he was a month ago.

"I think it was more of a mental thing for me," Stauskas said. "Just refusing to be stopped."

And it looks like he has succeeded. And in the process, Satuskas and the Wolverines have taken over sole possession of first place in the Big Ten race.

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