Written by Caleb Wojcik
"It looked like one team wanted it," Coach Tom Izzo said, "and one team was just playing basketball.â€ That sums up the entire game in a nutshell. The Minnesota Gophers showed up ready to play for this very important Big Ten match-up at the Barn in Minneapolis. The Spartans on the other hand, came out looking flat. In the first half, the Spartans blew many defensive assignments, leaving Gophers wide open under the basket numerous times for easy lay-ups or rebounds. On the other end of the court, Minnesota played a tough check defense. The Spartans were not able to get the ball in the post to Paul Davis and gave up ten turnovers in the first half alone.
Davis did end up having a strong first half with 11 points, mostly jump shots and free throws, and finished the game with 17. Maurice Ager, after scoring the first five Spartan points, ended the game with only six points. His low scoring output can be contributed to his early foul trouble and Minnesota's ability to fight off of screens.
Minnesota was getting open looks at the basket the entire game, and they were making plenty of them. After leading by as much as eight in the first half, the Gophers went into the locker at half time leading 31-25.
In the second half, Michigan State decided to show up and actually play basketball, at least for a while. After cutting the six point deficit, the Spartans held a four point lead 43-39 midway through the second half. A few minutes later, after Ager picked up his fourth foul, the Gophers turned the intensity up a few notches.
The Gophersâ€™ Vincent Grier knocked a steal away and threw down a huge dunk to wake up the crowd. After a tie game at 51 with just five minutes remaining in regulation, Minnesotaâ€™s Adam Boone hit a huge three and Michigan State would never recover. The Gophers went on 18-4 run to end the game, sending the Spartans home with 69-55 loss.
Five Gophers scored in the double digits; starters Grier, Boone, Jâ€™son Stamper and Zach Puchtel and off the bench, Maurice Hargrow.
For Michigan State, Shannon Brown finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds. Drew Neitzel and Brown combined for nine turnovers, which is a problem that needs to be fixed before their next game. Next, the Spartans head to play the Big Ten leaders, Iowa, on the 14th.