Michigan State Coaching Error and Player Mistakes Costly in 96 to 90 Upset Loss to Minnesota

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Michigan State Coaching Error and Player Mistakes Costly in 96 to 90 Upset Loss to Minnesota

Breslin Center

East Lansing, MI

The Michigan State Spartans THOUGHT they had their demons of free throw shooting behind them. They did not and despite being up six with thirty four seconds left as they fell to Minnesota in overtime.

With just over ten seconds left in regulation the Gophers had the ball down three. Future Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo made a critical coaching decision when he decided to NOT foul the Gophers and chose to let them take the shot. Had he called for the foul the Gophers would have gotten two free throw shots.

When Gopher guard Carlos Morris took the final three point shot of regulation he not only nailed it, but he was fouled by Gavin Schilling. Morris couldn’t hit the free throw to win it, but it didn’t matter. The Gophers were flying high from a shot of confidence despite the late miss and they took it right at Michigan State in the extra period.

Izzo made the same decision not to foul late when leading by three with fewer than ten seconds left back on December 30 in the Breslin Center loss to Maryland. For a coach with high demands on his players not to repeat mistakes, this was a big one. That isn’t hate for the Spartan great, it is simply factual.

Izzo said of his decision, “The better team won. They played hard, they stuck around. Didn’t plan on fouling at the end this time. I’ll take complete responsibility for that. Thirteen seconds left and I didn’t want to because we weren’t shooting free throws that well. I will live with it. If guys would do their damn jobs we wouldn’t be in that position anyways. It's a choice. I made a choice.”

Gopher coach Richard Pitino talked about Izzo’s decision and what he anticipated the Spartans would do in that late critical situation. “I don’t think he fouls. We scouted that.”

Izzo, future hall of famer has won many a game for Michigan State, but even with the mistake the Spartans woes at the free throw line certainly contributed to the loss. MSU shot 19 of 29 on the game (65%) and also had 13 turnovers. The Gophers were 29 of 40 from the charity stripe.

Izzo said of his teams woes at the line, “Very surprised with the free throws. At the end of the year your team is going to wear down. You have to shrink things down. We just didn’t guard. I’ve got to coach better than that and our seniors have to play better.”

Pitino thought of the contest, “Made big time plays scoring 96 points in one of college basketball’s elite places and against one of the best coaches. We made some mistakes, but never hung our heads. We got so much respect for this program and Coach Izzo. We beat and unbelievable gold standard for this conference and college basketball."

On the night Denzel Valentine had 27 points for MSU. Travis Trice added 21 and also had 10 assists for the double double. No Spartan had double digit rebounds. Branden Dawson was the closest to that with eight boards and 10 points.

There are no silver linings in a program like MSU, but I asked Izzo if he was able to appreciate 24 assists on 29 baskets and one of the best passing nights of the season. “Means zero. It means nothing to me. You don’t win games on offense. Not many teams go out and just outscore people.”

This was the first time the Gophers have won at the Breslin Center since 1997.

Despite the loss Michigan State has not time to get down. They go back at it Sunday in Wisconsin against the Big Ten’s best team the Wisconsin Badgers at 4PM on a nationally televised game on CBS. Izzo said of the upcoming Wisconsin game, “I will tell you that in our next press conference because I'm too mad right now to talk about Wisconsin."

The Spartans fall to 19-9 on the season, 10-5 in the Big Ten.