The Michigan State Spartans men’s basketball team opened Big Ten play with a road game against Minnesota on Wednesday night. The No. 19-ranked Spartans gave the Golden Gophers their first loss of the season, 75-67.
Ultimately, it was talent that secured the victory for Michigan State as Minnesota struggled in key areas, such as three-point efficiency and settling for bad shots. That’s not to say it wasn’t interesting as Minnesota had two big scoring runs in the second half, forcing Michigan State to call timeouts.
Malik Hall looked confident in today’s game, leading the Spartans in scoring with 15 points. He was 6-for-9 in field goals and 2-for-4 from the three-point line. He also had nine rebounds and four assists. Another impressive performance came from an uncommon name: Joey Hauser.
After struggling to start the season, Hauser bounced back with a solid game against the Gophers. He had 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists, and there were some other things to like, whether it was his three-point shots or the confidence he showed on Wednesday night.
In head coach Tom Izzo’s press conference, he praised Hauser’s performance, saying, “This was Joey’s best all-around game, and I’m really happy for him. He’s been through hell, but he’s bouncing back.”
Depth proved to be a big asset for MSU: Hall, Tyson Walker, and Gabe Brown led in scoring, each with 15 points. By the contrary, Minnesota’s depth was lacking. Eric Curry (18) and Jamison Battle (17) led the Gophers in scoring. Michigan State had 20 bench points while Minnesota had 10, only half of MSU’s total. Minnesota only had seven players see the court, while MSU had 10 players get on the floor.
Big Ten Freshman of the Week Max Christie was also solid. He had nine points, shot 33 percent from the field, and made both of his free throws. Overall, his defense and impact on the game was a big key to the Spartans’ victory on Wednesday night.
A massive positive note for Michigan State was its three-point game. The Spartans were 25-for-52 in field goals (48.1 percent) and 10-for-21 in three-point shots, making nearly half of them (47.6 percent).
Defense was also solid for the Spartans, forcing the Gophers to go just 6-for-23 from the three-point line (26.1 percent). This was a Minnesota team that only had three turnovers all night and came in as one of the best teams at defending the three-point shot in the country.
For Michigan State, turnovers have been the Achilles’ heel. Several poor turnovers led to easy Minnesota transitions that almost let the Gophers back into the game. That will be something the team needs to work on as the season marches on, and has been an issue all season long.
Izzo mentioned he was disappointed by the finish, saying, “They turned us over at the end, and that cost us about eight points. That disappointed me, because we still don’t know how to finish games.”
It almost turned sour for the Spartans, as MSU was outscored 43-38 in the second half. Luckily, the Spartans came out with a win and have improved to 8-2 on the season, and 1-0 in Big Ten play. Meanwhile, Minnesota suffered its first loss of the season and falls to 7-1 on the season (0-1 in Big Ten play).
Next up, Michigan State will host the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on the Big Ten Network. It’s the last game prior to playing the Oakland Grizzlies at Little Caesars Arena on Dec. 21.
It’s not easy to win road games in the Big Ten, but the Spartans did so in Minneapolis, and the season marches on.