For the second straight game, a game that was seemingly in Michigan State’s control, nearly slipped out of their hands, before the No. 5 Michigan State Spartans (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) managed to put away the Minnesota Gophers (13-4, 2-2) in overtime, 87-75.
For much of the early going of Saturday’s contest, it was Minnesota who held the upper hand. The fact that Michigan State star senior big man Adreian Payne sat due to a sprained ankle, coupled with Minnesota’s hot shooting from behind the arc in the first (7 of 12) gave them an early advantage over the Spartans.
However, keeping them close in the first half was without a doubt Michigan State redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski, who certainly gave the Spartans a spark off the bench and helped fill a void that was left in Payne’s absence. Kaminski connected on 4 of 4 from behind the arc for 12 points, helping to keep the Minnesota lead to five at halftime, 41-36.
“Guys have got to pick things up and I was given the opportunity today to play a lot of minutes and do some other damage…You know shoot, spread the floor and give guys lanes,” Kaminski said of his play on Saturday.
In the second half, Minnesota continued to outplay Michigan State, at one point building a ten point lead, 53-43, with 15:57 to go in the game.
However, from there Michigan State would go on a methodical 15-0 run to take a 58-53 lead with 8:53 left in the game.
Minnesota would eventually end the run after nearly an eight minute scoring drought when junior guard Andre Hollins connected on six straight free throws to put the Gophers back on top 59-58.
After that, Michigan State managed to build a six point lead, 67-61, with 2:41 to play, only to see it immediately cut in half by a Malik Smith 3-pointer on the other end, the Gopher’s first field goal in 13:23 of game time.
This type of back and forth play between the two teams continued to be played right up until the last moments of regulation.
And with 12.8 seconds left to play and the Spartans leading 71-69, Michigan State sophomore guard Gary Harris, an 89 percent free throw shooter, stepped to the line with a chance to put the game away. But after hitting the front end of the rim and missing both free throws, Minnesota sophomore guard DeAndre Mathieu slashed inside the lane to tie things up at 71 a piece and send the game into overtime.
“I can’t miss those,” Harris said. “I take full responsibility for it…My teammates helped me get through it and we just ended up coming out on top in OT.”
And like Harris said, in overtime, Michigan State completely took over, outscoring Minnesota 16-4 in the period behind eight made free throws from senior point guard Keith Appling, who finished the game with a team high 24 points, including going 15 of 16 from the free throw line , helping Michigan State to their eventual 87-75 victory.
“I just thought at the end of the game and in overtime we just didn’t make plays and they did,” Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino said, while also going on to say that anytime you show up and play great for 40 minutes and you can’t seal the deal against the No. 5 team in the country, it certainly is a missed opportunity.
Harris added 19 points for the Spartans and Kaminski wound up with 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting from three while sophomore guard Denzel Valentine rebounded from a couple of boneheaded turnovers early on with some big defensive plays towards the end of the game to finish with 9 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Minnesota got 24 points from Andre Hollins and also saw a nice performance from senior guard Malik Smith, who finished with 17 points, but just as Pitino said, it wasn’t quite enough to beat the Spartans.
Nevertheless though, despite the victory, Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo expressed many concerns with his team’s lack luster effort on Saturday. And while he does acknowledge the injury problems the Spartans have experienced this season is a contributing factor, he also mentions that he’s going to go to work and figure some things out, while also expressing confidence in just how good his team is.
Up next for the MSU basketball team, they’ll travel to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (7-9, 0-3) on Wednesday, January 15. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET and will be televised on Big Ten Network.