Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spartans grind, drop Minnesota for 6th straight

AP Photo courtesy of mlive.com
As the final seconds ticked off the clock a huge exhale was released by the entire Spartan Nation. Michigan State came away with a road victory, 66-61 against the Minnesota Golden Gophers giving them a season sweep and a 6th straight win.

The Spartans got the Gophers best shot. The game went back and forth in the first half. Minnesota was able to go to a zone look which slowed the Spartan offense down. Lucky for MSU a Brandon Wood lay-up gave them a 31-30 half time lead. Draymond Green was great from the outside hitting four 3-pointers in the first half. However, in the second half Green & Co. went cold. There were a number of short range misses and missed free throws that doomed MSU. Minnesota made just enough baskets to hang on to a single digit lead for most of the 2nd half. 

Michigan State buckled down with great defense in the closing minutes, coming up with great steals on defense. They forced Minnesota in to 14 turnovers overall which allowed the Spartans to get extra possessions. Getting in to the bonus early was a key factor for MSU as well. Being able to rally from 9 down in the closing minutes shows how gritty this bunch can be.

Keith Appling and Brandon Wood were the biggest reasons for MSU leaving Minneapolis smiling. Both went for 13 points and made huge buckets to get their team back in the game.

Wood was especially aggressive on offense and defense. He made hard drives to the basket for lay ups and face guarded the Gophers best shooter, Austin Hollins.  Wood also came up with a big-time steal that cut the lead to 2 with less then 4 minutes to go. Appling went from 'goat' to hero as fast as he drives to the basket. After two bad plays on defense where he fouled jump shooters (one from 3 pt!) Appling came up big going 4 of 4 from the line inside of a minute, including the go ahead free throws.

Green didn't have his best shooting game but he came up big late also. Green drew fouls and got to the line with his shot not falling. He also put in the game tying bucket finishing with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

The turnovers were especially low for most of the game for MSU. This is a great sign that the team is being patient and not letting a road environment effect how they play. Minnesota did rebounded MSU 31-22, but could not get out of their own way committing late turnovers.

Michigan State proved that they will be getting everyone's best shot this year, but also showed teams that they better be perfect if they want to put an 'L' on the Spartans. This team knows how to overcome adverse game situations because they are so fundamentally sound on defense and offense.

Tonight's game was going to be tough. The Spartans came out of it still in first place in the B1G conference, that's all anyone can ask. Expect a more focused effort on Saturday at home against Nebraska.

Big Ten Conference Standings

TEAMCONF W-LTOTAL W-L
#6 Michigan State12-323-5
#9 Ohio State11-423-5
#13 Michigan11-421-7
#15 Wisconsin9-520-7
#24 Indiana8-721-7
Purdue8-718-10
Iowa6-814-13
Northwestern6-916-11
Minnesota5-1017-11
Illinois5-1016-12
Nebraska4-1112-14
Penn State4-1112-16

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