Sixth-seeded Minnesota's run through the Big Ten Tournament continued on Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, as the Gophers held on for a thrilling 72-67 overtime victory against third-seeded and 11th-ranked Michigan State.
The Golden Gophers (20-12) reached 20 wins for the third-straight year under head coach Tubby Smith, who has now reached the mark in 17 consecutive seasons, the longest active streak in the nation.
Sophomore guard Devoe Joseph was held scoreless in the first half, but responded with a team-high 17 points in the second half and overtime, helping Minnesota defeat Michigan State (24-8) for the first time since 2006. Junior guard Blake Hoffarber made four three-pointers to become the Gophers' single-season leader in that category, finishing with 14 points and five rebounds. Joseph, who led Minnesota with 15 points in its 76-55 first round win over Penn State, also added six rebounds and four assists.
The Gophers took a 5-2 lead on a layup by senior forward Damian Johnson and a trey from senior guard Lawrence Westbrook just a minute and a half into the contest. After the Spartans anwered with a 6-0 run to go up, 8-5, Johnson hit his only three-pointer of the game to tie it. Michigan State then went on a 4-0 run for a 12-8 lead, but Hoffarber made his first three of the night to spark a 12-0 Minnesota run, giving the Gophers a 20-12 lead with 6:22 left in the half.
Following another 4-0 run for MSU, Hoffarber canned his second trey of the night, setting Minnesota's single season record and keeping the Gophers in front, 23-16. But, similar to last night, when Minnesota allowed Penn State to close the half with a 7-1 spurt, the Gophers' halftime lead was cut to two points (28-26) when the Spartans closed the half with a 10-5 run.
Sophomore center Colton Iverson was a key factor in the game, as he came off the bench to score six points in each half before fouling out of the game with 2:19 left in regulation. Iverson made 6-of-9 field goals in the contest, and played a very physical game to help the Gophers in the paint.
Early in the second half, with the Gophers leading, 33-32, Minnesota went on a 7-2 run to build a lead it would maintain for much of the half. Hoffarber scored five points during the run, hitting a jumper, followed by a fastbreak layup by junior forward Paul Carter, and Hoffarber's fourth three-pointer to make the score 40-34 and force a Michigan State timeout at the 12:42 mark.
Minnesota stretched its lead to 50-40 with 8:20 remaining in regulation, with Iverson scoring four points sandwiched around a dunk by Johnson. But that's when Michigan State began a 15-5 run that would eventually tie the game, 55-55, and force overtime. The Gophers led, 55-48, with 3:25 left after Iverson scored his 12th point on a layup, but went scoreless down the stretch to give the Spartans a chance to rally.
Michigan State got a long three-pointer from Korie Lucious with 3:05 left, followed by a pair of free throws by Kalin Lucas after Iverson's fifth foul at the 2:19 mark, and a layup by Raymar Morgan that knotted the score with 1:31 left.
After Minnesota called a 30-second timeout with 1:13 on the clock, Westbrook misfired from long-distance, and MSU's Mike Kebler grabbed the rebound, but stepped out of bounds to give the Gophers a fresh shot clock with 0:53 remaining. Joseph then had his layup attempt blocked by Draymond Green 15 seconds later, and the Spartans had the ball and a chance to win the game.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo called timeout with 0:15 left, setting up an isolation play for Lucas, who drove the left side of the lane with the clock winding under five seconds, but Joseph reached his hand in and knocked the ball loose, and it went off Lucas and out of bounds with 3.9 seonds left to give the Gophers an opportunity to win in regulation.
Following a timeout by the Gophers, Joseph took the ball on the inbounds play, and advanced up the court, but his 30-foot runner was defended well and bounced off the backboard to send Minnesota to its third overtime of the season.
The extra period started ominously for the Gophers, as MSU's Morgan scored and was fouled by Johnson, his fifth of the game. Morgan made the free throw for a traditional three-point play and a 58-55 Spartans lead.
But the Gophers showed their will to advance in the tournament by responding with a 10-0 run on a pair of clutch three-pointers by Joseph and four points from Westbrook. Undaunted, Michigan State scored the next four points to cut it to 65-62 with 0:59 left, but the Gophers nailed seven-of-eight free throws down the stretch to seal the important win and advance to Saturday's semifinals.
Westbrook finished with 11 points for the Gophers, making 6-of-7 free throws when the game was on the line. Minnesota didn't shoot the ball particularly well, making just 23-of-59 attempts for 39 percent, but the Gophers continued to be efficient from long-range by making 10-of-23 treys in the game. Over the past three contests, Minnesota has made 31-of-61 (.508) three-pointers.
Michigan State was led by Morgan's 23 points and six rebounds, while Lucas had 18 points, five steals, and four assists, and Green recorded a double-double with 10 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds. The Spartans made 22-of-53 (.415) field goals, but were just 5-of-15 (.333) from beyond the arc, and killed themselves at the free throw line by making just 18-of-34 (.529) attempts. Behind Green's total, MSU finished with a 40-39 edge in rebounding, but the Spartans turned the ball over 16 times.
Minnesota will face second-seeded and sixth-ranked Purdue (27-4) in the next round. The Boilermakers defeated Northwestern, 69-61, to advance. Saturday's Minnesota-Purdue matchup is set to tip off 25 minutes after the completion of the day's first semifinal pitting top-seeded Ohio State and fifth-seeded Illinois. That game will start at 12:40 p.m. (Central), and both semifinal games will be televised nationally on CBS.