On Monday, the 18th ranked Michigan State Spartans traveled to take on the 9th ranked Minnesota Gophers in what would be each school’s B1G conference opener.
The game was a hard fought, physical game throughout as both sides were absolutely playing their hearts out.
In the first half, it was Minnesota who gained the upper hand first. When Michigan State junior guard Keith Appling went out of the game after picking up his second foul late in the half, Minnesota jumped out to 12 point lead, 37-25 with 4:57 to go.
However, Michigan State surged back as sophomore guard Travis Trice came off the bench for Michigan State, hitting three 3 pointers to help cut the Minnesota lead to one, 39-38 at the half.
When both teams came out of the locker room for the second half, the play of the game really changed. Both teams wanted to start the B1G season off on a good note and the aggressiveness of the game picked up considerably.
And for a large stretch of the second half, it appeared as if Michigan State was really gaining control of the game. Keith Appling was taking over, sparking an 11-0 Spartan run to put Michigan State up 55-51 with 14 minutes to go in the game.
From there, the game started to drag on for what felt like forever, as it seemed neither team could hit a shot or hang on to the ball as both teams turned the ball over left and right.
With 9:24 to go in the game, Appling drove the lane, hitting a layup to put the Spartans up 59-54, their largest lead in the game.
After that though, the Spartans completely fell apart, missing what seemed like every shot and turning it over on numerous occasions as Minnesota took over, closing the game on a 22-4 run, beating Michigan State at Williams Arena for the first time since 2006.
The Gophers were led by sophomore guard Andre Hollins, who hit several shots late to help put away the Spartans, finishing with 22 points and 6 assists. Minnesota also received boosts from forwards Rodney Williams (15 points, 6 rebounds) and Trevor Mbakwe, who helped hold both Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne in check, finishing with 11 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.
Appling led the Spartans with 15 points, 5 assists, and 6 steals but it wasn’t enough as Michigan State crumbled in the waning moments.
For Michigan State, there were several reasons for why they lost this game, but it can largely be attributed to simply just the fact that they failed to but the ball in the basket.
Down the stretch the Spartans scored just 4 points in the last 9:24, something that can’t happen in a B1G conference game.
In addition to this, Michigan State just couldn’t make the easiest shots in the game. The Spartans shot a pathetic 2-10 from the free throw line (a mark my Grandpa could beat), while Nix and Payne couldn’t hit layups and bunnies combining to shoot just 7-21 from the field.
Moving forward, depth may also play an issue for Michigan State with the recent transfer of sophomore guard Brandan Kearney. For a large part of the game Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo really only had a rotation of 7 players, much smaller than we thought it would be at the beginning of the season.
Nevertheless, Michigan State (11-3, 0-1) will have to shake this one off and get ready for Purdue (6-6) next Saturday at noon.
Follow Ryan Squanda on twitter @squandarunner