No. 2 Michigan clinches Big Ten, beats Michigan State 69-50

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Michigan forward Isaiah Livers twirls the net after the team won the Big Ten title against Michigan State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – At some point during Michigan's giddy postgame celebration, Juwan Howard saved himself a little keepsake from this marvelous season.

“I put some of that confetti in my pocket,” Howard said. “I'm just going to keep it in a nice safe place, because it's hard winning championships, man. I'm going to always remember this moment.”

Franz Wagner scored 19 points, Hunter Dickinson added 14 and No. 2 Michigan wrapped up the Big Ten title with a 69-50 victory over rival Michigan State on Thursday night. It was an emotional night for the Wolverines, even though there weren't many fans at Crisler Center because of the pandemic. When the game ended, confetti fell from above and players danced on the court before cutting down the net at one end.

Howard reached the Final Four as a player twice with the Fab Five, but even those teams never won the Big Ten. When Michigan shared the conference title in 2012 under John Beilein, it was the program's first regular-season crown since 1986. The Wolverines won it again in 2014.

Now Howard has a championship in just his second season as coach, having outlasted a loaded league that currently has four teams ranked in the top seven nationally.

“We were fortunate enough to win the Big Ten championship during the regular season. It's hard doing that. It's so hard,” Howard said. “And I remember as a player, it was very hard for us, and so to do it this year, it's a beautiful moment.”

The Wolverines (19-2, 14-2) had a chance to clinch the championship based on winning percentage with a victory in any of their final three games. They were blown out by No. 4 Illinois — the team chasing them — on Tuesday night, but they rebounded with a gritty effort two nights later.

Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 39-28 lead into halftime. The Wolverines later went on a 25-4 tear that spanned much of the second half.