ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Delvon Roe is starting to make Tom Izzo's prediction come true.
Roe scored 11 of his season-high 14 points in the first half and finished one short of his career best with 10 rebounds, helping No. 9 Michigan State earn a cushion that paved the way for a 54-42 win over Michigan on Tuesday night.
Before the season, Izzo said it would take a few months for Roe to regain the form that made the Ohioan a highly touted recruit before he had surgery on both knees.
The freshman scored in double digits in consecutive games against weak opponents in December and then went 11 straight games with six or fewer points. Then, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged nearly eight points in the three previous games before breaking out against Michigan.
"I'm not back yet, but I'm getting closer," Roe said. "I want to do this on a consistent basis, not just one night."
When Roe's offense cooled in the second half because he didn't get the ball much and shot just two times, Kalin Lucas made up for it with 13 of his 15 points after halftime.
"It was key for us to get him the ball early because we knew they didn't have any shot-blockers," Lucas said. "I saw him before his first knee surgery in high school and people are starting to really see what he can do."
The Spartans (20-4, 10-2 Big Ten) have won three straight to open a 2½-game lead over Illinois and Ohio State, moving closer to their first conference championship since 2001.
What would it mean to Izzo to end the drought?
"It would get guys like you off my back," Izzo said to a reporter. "Believe me, we have a lot of games left and some tough ones, but this was a big step."
The Wolverines (15-10, 5-7) have to finish the strong to play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. They've lost seven of their last nine after building confidence with wins over Duke, UCLA and Illinois.
Michigan's Manny Harris said Tuesday's matchup was a must-win game before it was played and stuck by his statement.
"But it's not over," he said. "We still have enough games to make a push."
The Wolverines, who are 1-6 as an away team, will have to dramatically improve on the road to avoid being relegated to the NIT because they're set to travel in four of their last six games.
"Obviously, I want to speed up this learning curve," coach John Beilein said.
Michigan, which trailed its rival by eight at halftime and 12 early in the second half, pulled within four with 4:48 left but couldn't get closer.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," said DeShawn Sims, who scored 18 for the Wolverines.
The Wolverines couldn't because Travis Walton, with some help from his friends, shut down Harris.
He had just two points in the first half and finished with seven on 2-of-10 shooting after entering as the Big Ten's second-leading scorer.
"A lot of it had to do with their defense," Harris acknowledged. "They were really tough."
Michigan State held its third straight opponent to fewer than 50 points for the first time since the 1951-52 season.
Michigan had won its last two home games against Michigan State but led the latest matchup just twice in the opening minutes before falling to 3-16 in the last 19 games in the series.
The Spartans were without second-leading scorer Raymar Morgan, who missed his third straight game recovering from a batch of illnesses but are expecting him for their next game Tuesday night at Purdue.
They played for the fifth time in less than two weeks.
"We need a break," Izzo said.
Michigan State is 7-0 in true road games, joining Connecticut, Louisville and Utah State as the only undefeated Division I teams on opponents' home courts.
The Spartans are 6-0 in the Big Ten on the road and are a win away from matching their school record set in 1978, Magic Johnson's freshman season, and 1999, when they won their second of four straight conference titles.
"It speaks to the toughness of our guys," Izzo said.
The Wolverines might've been tired against Michigan State, playing their third game in just six days.
Michigan State scored the first five points, but then Michigan outscored the Spartans 8-2 to take the lead. One of Roe's four field goals in the lane put Michigan State ahead for good midway through the first half.
His 11 points before halftime surpassed his previous best in a Big Ten game and were just two short of his previous career high.
"He's an All-American," Beilein said.