While Minnesota has had one of the more disappointing seasons in the Big Ten, a win against the 6th ranked Spartans, and arguably hottest team in the country, could be the late season turning point that Tubby Smith’s team needs heading into the Big Ten tournament.
For about the first 30 minutes, in the contest against MSU, Minnesota was in control. They played with the determination that a team in their position should have when facing one of the best in the nation. Unfortunately for the Golden Gophers, that determination that they possessed was not enough to runaway with the game. While Minnesota outplayed the Spartans in the first 30 minutes last night, it was the final 10 minutes that decided the game.
With 8 points in the final 7 minutes from senior Brandon Wood and 6 points in the final 32 seconds from sophomore Keith Appling, Michigan State was able to rally back and defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers 66-61 at The Barn.
Going into the 2nd half, Michigan State led 31-30 after a lay-up converted by Brandon Wood with 3 seconds remaining. This basket by Wood would cap off the last of 18 different lead changes in the first half.
Minnesota was led by sophomore Austin Hollins who led the Gophers with 8 points in the first half, and finished with 17 points and 4 rebounds.
Michigan State was led in the first half by none other than “Mr. Everything,” Draymond Green, as he went 4-of-6 from behind the arch for 12 points.
Unfortunately for Green and the Spartans, his shooting success was nowhere near duplicated in the 2nd half, as Day-Day went 1-of-8 from the field for 5 points.
Aside from Green’s struggle shooting, the whole Spartan team came out ice cold in the 2nd half. MSU only scored one field goal in the first seven and a half minutes.
Minnesota took advantage of the Spartans shooting woes by going on a 12-5 run during that period.
Michigan State found themselves down by nine points with 10 minutes left, and it was not looking good for the 6th ranked team in the nation.
Once that 10 minute mark hit the Spartans started finding way to put the ball in the hoop.
With a combination of turnovers and aggressive play offensively, Michigan State was able to go on a 13-6 run in 5 minutes. This run cut the score down to 52-54 in favor of Minnesota.
With 1:41 left in the game, Draymond Green scored his lone field goal in the second half to tie the game at 58-58.
Michigan State close the second half with on an 8-3 run, and grabbed their 12th Big Ten win of the season and 23rd overall.
Compared to how Michigan State has been playing for the whole month of February, they looked a bit sluggish. It seemed as if all these physical games; Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Purdue, finally took a toll on Tom Izzo’s team.
Michigan State got it together just in time, so that their hopes for a #1 seed in the Big Ten tournament and NCAA Tournament were still in reach.
Brandon Wood looked very aggressive for the Spartans in the win Wednesday, something that has been lacking in his game since transferring to Michigan State. Wood, who is a knock down shooter, went 1-of-5 from beyond the arch, but was able to get 10 of his 13 points by attacking the rim.
With the lack of guard experience on the Michigan State roster it is important that Wood continues to attack the rim from here on out. By doing so, Wood will take some of the pressure off of Keith Appling, who has continued to shoot the ball atrociously, and he will find confidence within himself.
Tom Izzo’s decision to bench Wood for Thornton was one his smartest decisions this season. It was smart in the sense that since Thornton has become a starter he has played the best basketball in his career at Michigan State. Thornton has been shooting the ball exceptionally well, and his defense continues to improve with each game. Also, since Wood is coming off of the bench, Michigan State now has a guard that can create his own shot when Appling is off the court.
Even though the outcome of the Minnesota game is not necessarily what the Spartans were looking for, it is definitely a wake-up call for the Spartans. It shows them that on any give night no matter the team, the Big Ten is the most challenging conference from top to bottom in college basketball.
Something that has haunted Michigan State teams in the past few years, and even a little earlier this season, is that they would always play to the level of their competition whether it was good or bad. This team as of late has been dominating teams, and when you win handily, you put fear in the heart of your opponents.
Michigan State is starting to show that they are the team to beat in the Big Ten, and this close call against Minnesota shows that this time has the resilience to get the win even when they aren’t playing at their best.