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Five Observations: Joey Hauser's last-second bucket lifts Michigan State over Minnesota

The Spartans beat the Golden Gophers at the buzzer to improve to a perfect 5-0 in Big Ten play

Michigan State remained unbeaten in Big Ten Conference play after forward Joey Hauser scored with less than a second remaining to give the Spartans a 71-69 win over Minnesota.

The Spartans led for the majority of the game, but were never able to put much distance between themselves and the Golden Gophers, particularly in the second half.

With under ten minutes to play and the game very much in doubt, Malik Hall came up big for Michigan State down the stretch, scoring seven quick points over a two and a half minute stretch to give the Spartans a 63-57 lead with just under six minutes left to play. Hall had been scoreless up until that point.

However, Minnesota closed the gap to tie the game, 69-69, with 25 seconds to play. On the final possession, freshman Max Christie delivered a bounce pass leading sophomore AJ Hoggard into the paint. Hoggard took two quick dribbles and delivered a great shovel pass to Hauser, who laid it in with 0.1 left on the clock.

Michigan State trailed 10-9 early, but then went on a 14-3 run midway through the first half to take a 23-13 lead with seven and a half minutes to play.

The Spartans led 27-17 with five minutes left in the first frame, but Minnesota outscored Michigan State 14-7 to shrink the Spartans lead to 34-31 by halftime. MSU did not have a field goal in the final 2:38 of the half.

The battle was on in the second half, as the teams played to several ties during the half and Michigan State never led by more than six points in the final 20 minutes.

1. Max Christie stays hot

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We may be starting to sound like a broken record, but Max Christie has certainly arrived for the Spartans. The freshman got off to a slow start, but has now scored in double figures in four consecutive games and in six of the last eight games. More importantly, Christie is scoring more efficiently — on Wednesday, the freshman went 7-of-12 from the floor and 2-of-3 from three-point range on his way to 16 points. Christie added 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal to round out his night. Senior Gabe Brown has been the most consistent scorer for Michigan State this season — he had 13 points in this one — but no Spartan is playing better than the freshman Christie right now.

2. Too many offensive rebounds allowed

Minnesota entered this contest dead last in the nation in offensive rebounding (358th out of 358). But on Wednesday, the Golden Gophers had 12 offensive boards which led to a 17-8 edge in second-chance points for Minnesota. We all know the emphasis Izzo has put on rebounding throughout his tenure in East Lansing, and he won't be happy with those numbers tonight.

3. Fast break pays dividends

While the Spartans got beat on the offensive glass, they made up for it with their edge in fast break opportunities. Michigan State outscored the Gophers 12-3 in fast break points, and it was crucial to the Spartans offensive effort. Michigan State did a better job of taking care of the basketball tonight, but still finished the game with 13. That's an improvement, but you can be sure that Izzo wants that number to drop a little lower.

4. Spartan bench provides a boost

Brown didn't shoot the ball particularly well (2-of-7 overall, 1-of-5 from three), and Marcus Bungham Jr. was held to just 6 points on the night. Michigan State needed help from their bench to pull out this victory. Minnesota plays its starters perhaps more than any other team in the Big Ten, and only got two points from its bench. The Spartans, meanwhile, got 18 points combined from Hall (7 points), Hoggard (5), Julius Marble (4) and Jaden Akins (2). None of those are eye-popping numbers, but they added up to give MSU an needed advantage in a tight ball game.

5. Northwestern next, with two big games to follow

Michigan State will host Northwestern on Saturday, looking to keep its unbeaten mark in Big Ten play intact. After that, the No. 10 Spartans will have two tough tests with road trips to No. 13 Wisconsin (Jan. 21) and No. 25 Illinois (Jan. 25). The Spartans and the Fighting Illini are the only teams who have yet to suffer a defeat to a Big Ten opponent.