Gophers nipped by No. 6 Michigan State 65-59 in Big Ten opener Minnesota dropped the first Big Ten conference game of the Tubby Smith era by a 65-59 score to No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Minnesota dropped the first Big Ten conference game of the Tubby Smith era by a 65-59 score to No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday night at the BreslinCenter in East Lansing. MichiganState forward Raymar Morgan scored a career-high 31 points to lead the Spartans (13-1, 1-0). The Gophers (10-3, 0-1) were led by Spencer Tollackson’s 12 points. Lawrence McKenzie added 10 points, three rebounds and a pair of assists. Freshman point guard Al Nolen also had a solid night for the Gophers, scoring seven points while pacing the Gophers with seven assists and four rebounds.
Although MichiganState rallied to a 13-point lead just after halftime following a tip-in by Morgan, the Gophers would use a 14-5 run midway through the second half to vault themselves within one point of the hosts at 58-57 with just remaining. In a game that featured five ties and 13 lead changes, a Spartans squad that dominated the Gophers 10-3 on the offensive glass in the second half proved to be too strong for the Gophers down the stretch.
The Spartans, picked by many to finish atop the Big Ten this season, held the Gophers to just 36.4% shooting from the floor in the contest. Minnesota rallied from a 29% shooting performance in the first half to convert on 11 of 24 (45.8%) field goals in the second half. The Gophers moved the ball well in their half-court offense, recording 17 assists on 20 field goals.
As has been the trend this season, each of the Gophers’ 11 players in uniform for this evening’s contest saw playing time. Guard Kevin Payton, who finished with two assists and two rebounds in 13 minutes, was the only Gopher not to score. The Gophers’ bench outscored MichiganState’s 22-21.
Minnesota returns home to host Northwestern in their Big Ten home opener next Wednesday at Williams Arena for an tip.