Heading into East Lansing is a daunting task in itself; heading into East Lansing against a big, powerful, physical Michigan State team is even tougher. After turning their season around with three straight conference victories the Gophers saw their string of success end in a decisive loss to the Spartans.
It’s hard to get on the Gophers for not winning. The Breslin Center is one of the harder places to play in the conference and a nationally relevant Michigan State team at home is nearly impossible to beat. No one expected the Gophers to win and aside from a four minute stretch in the middle of the second half, Minnesota was never really in the game in the first place. They didn’t get run out of the gym, but it was obvious from the opening tip that they were overmatched.
This was one of those games that would have been awesome to win, but no alarm bells should be sounding after the loss, even if it was by more than 10 points. However, the way that the Gophers lost could raise some concern. It was obvious Minnesota had no answer for the physically dominating Spartan backcourt. Draymond Green, Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix had their way down low and scored 38 points between the three of them. Green had 22 by himself, going 8-10 from the field and pulling down 14 rebound
On the other end of the court the Gophers had trouble getting anything going on offense and saw their hot shooting from their past three games completely leave them. The Gophers shot only 38% from the field and never found their stride inside. The half-court offense, in fact, was fairly stagnant the entire game and Minnesota never really found a groove like they had in previous wins.
Rodney Williams led the team with 15 points, but even after two opening three pointers he had trouble scoring consistently Managing nine points after the opening couple of minutes. Ralph Sampson was at his worst in the first half, but managed to rebound a little bit and finish with10 points on 4-7 shooting, though he only pulled down two rebounds.
Joe Coleman, the star of the previous three games, tried all he could to take the ball to the hole and was certainly the most physical offensive player for the Gophers. Coleman finished with nine points and eight rebounds in an encouraging performance against a physically imposing team. It was nice to Coleman show no fear in taking the ball to the rim and he led the team with eight FTs attempted.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team was basically invisible and combined for only 18 points. Andre Hollins showed some intensity, but never cashed in on four shots and looked rather out of control the rest of the time.
In the end, the game pretty much went the way many expected. The Gophers were sort of in it for much of the game, but never really put a scare into the Spartans. It’s hard to blame them considering they were facing the second-best team in the conference on its home floor. That said, the Gophers will no doubt have to play pretty solid basketball to take down the Spartans when they come to town in February. Their weaknesses against a big, physical team were certainly exposed against Michigan State.