Gophers' Late Lead Vanishes in 66-61 Loss to #6 MSU

Go Gophers! Austin Hollins made 4-of-6 three-pointers and led the Gophers with 17 points.
Go Gophers!
Austin Hollins made 4-of-6 three-pointers and led the Gophers with 17 points.
Go Gophers!

Feb. 22, 2012

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Minnesota had a chance to record a statement victory on Tuesday night, but sixth-ranked Michigan State wouldn't let it happen.

The Golden Gophers held a 58-52 lead with 3:27 remaining, but the Spartans went on a 12-0 run to escape with a 66-61 victory at Williams Arena and hold on to first place in the Big Ten standings.

With the win, Michigan State improved to 23-5 overall and 12-3 in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the heartbreaking loss for the Gophers was their fourth in a row, as they fell to 17-11 overall and 5-10 in the conference.

Sophomore guard Austin Hollins led the Gophers with 17 points, while making 4-of-6 three-pointers and grabbing four rebounds. Junior guard Julian Welch and junior forward Rodney Williams each added 10 points, with Welch dishing out a game-high eight assists. Senior forward Ralph Sampson III played one of his better games this season, finishing with eight points and a game-best total of six rebounds.
 
Three players reached double-figures for the Spartans, who were led by All-American Draymond Green. The senior forward made 4-of-8 three-pointers to finish with 17 points, while adding five rebounds, five assists and four steals in an all-around effort. Keith Appling had 13 points and five assists, while Brandon Wood came off the bench to finish with 13 points.
 
The Gophers jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, as Welch made a jumper on Minnesota's first possession, followed by back-to-back layups by Austin Hollins and freshman guard Joe Coleman.

After the Spartans tied the score at 6-6, Williams got loose inside for a dunk. Then, after a three-pointer by Green, freshman center Elliott Eliason scored to put the Gophers up 10-9.

But Green hit two more treys during an 8-2 run to put Michigan State up, 17-12. Green, a 39 percent shooter from beyond the arc this season, made his first three attempts from long-range.

Minnesota responded with an 8-2 run of its own, with Sampson scoring four points along the way, to help the Gophers pull back into a 20-19 lead. The game was back-and-forth, as the lead had changed hands nine times already by this point.

Sampson continued his strong first-half play, using a soft touch to get a left-handed hook shot to fall for a 22-19 lead for the Maroon and Gold.

The Spartans answered with a 5-0 run to retake a 24-22 lead, but Austin Hollins knocked down Minnesota's first three-pointer of the night to put the Gophers up by a point.

The lead continued to change hands, as Branden Dawson scored under the basket to put MSU up, 26-25, but Austin Hollins answered with a three to put Minnesota up by two points. Green hit his fourth trifecta of the first half to give the Spartans a one-point edge, but Williams made a jumper for a 30-29 lead.

As time ran down in the opening 20 minutes, Wood drove the lane and swished a short jumper to send the Spartans to the locker room with a 31-30 halftime lead.

After hitting a couple treys and scoring eight points in the first half, Austin Hollins opened the second half with a flourish. He made three-pointers on back-to-back possessions to quickly put the Gophers up, 36-32.

Dawson scored on a layup to pull MSU within two, but Sampson got a short jumper to roll in, Welch grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, and later added two free throws to give Minnesota its largest lead (at the time) of 42-34.

Appling snapped a lengthy scoreless streak by hitting a pull-up jumper and then adding a steal and a dunk. But Appling was whistled for a technical foul on the dunk, for hanging on the rim, and Austin Hollins made a pair of free throws for the Gophers.

Minnesota stretched its lead to 49-41 on a pair of layups by Williams and a free throw by Austin Hollins before Michigan State made four free throws to cut the deficit to four points.

Freshman guard Andre Hollins helped the Gophers extend the lead back to seven points, 54-47, by making five straight free throws, including three after he was fouled by Appling behind the arc.

The Spartans then quieted the crowd and forced a Minnesota timeout by going on a 5-0 run to pull within 54-52.

But Welch took over, making a pair of free throws and then hitting a 15-foot pull-up jumper to give Minnesota a 58-52 advantage with 3:27 left.

Needing a spark, the Spartans received one from Wood, who scored on a pair of drives to the basket to cut it to a two-point game, and Green then tied the game on a layup with 1:38 remaining.

Minnesota turned the ball over on its next possession, and Appling was fouled by Williams with 32 seconds left. He made both free throws, giving MSU an 8-0 run and its first lead since early in the second half.

Needing a score to either tie the game or retake the lead, the Gophers went to Austin Hollins, who attempted a three-pointer that was well off the mark. Appling was fouled on the inbounds pass, and went back to the line, where he made both attempts to put the Spartans up, 64-58.

Andre Hollins snapped Michigan State's 12-0 run by making a three to cut it to 64-61 with 1.8 seconds remaining, but Austin Thornton iced the victory for the Spartans by making two more free throws.

The Gophers remain home to play host to nationally-ranked Indiana on Sunday. Tipoff at Williams Arena is set for 12:00 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com