East Lansing, MI
It was a scrappy win, it was a gutsy win and with Travis Trice out with concussion symptoms, Keith Appling and Adreian Payne leaving the court with injuries (both returned) and Branden Dawson looking injured and Gary Harris (returned from back spasms) limping, MSU found a way to win. They resembled a M*A*S*H* unit, but got the Big Ten win 61-50 over Minnesota.
Izzo said of the injuries that, “Appling shoulder definitely popped, the hope is that it popped out, but went back in so fast that things didn’t get stretched too badly.” Payne probably broke his nose, Gary Harris was limping, but it wasn’t an ankle. According to Izzo, “His back was hurting so bad.” Branden Dawson “Tweaked his ankle,” and Trice missed the entire game.
Izzo has repeatedly called this team a scrappy grinder and tonight they proved it.
The #8 ranked Spartans improved their record to 19-4 (8-2) and while it wasn’t pretty, it was a great win. Good teams win the games they should and great teams win some games they shouldn’t. With all of the injuries this game could have easily fell in the latter category.
It was ugly. The score was a brutal 20-18 at the half. The Spartan defense held Minnesota for the game to 37% shooting and despite losing the rebounding stats 38-28 they scrapped to a victory.
Izzo said of his team’s plethora of injuries that, “(We are) extremely beat up right now.”
Of course Izzo couldn’t be happy, that isn’t his style, but he was glad to survive and win. He said of the game, “I don’t even know what to say. I am kind of lost. We just beat a very very good basketball team. I am kind of speechless. I don’t know why we came out like we did. Just didn’t feel like we played. Proud we found a way to win. We just grinded it out.”
Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith had to feel like his Gophers let a golden opportunity slip by. He said of the game, “We had a tough night shooting the ball, but a lot of that had a lot to do with the MSU defense. When you give up easy baskets, just throw the ball to a guy those are just back breakers.”
Smith was referencing his team’s 12 turnovers.
Coming off of back spasms that put in doubt his ability to play tonight, freshman sensation Gary Harris led the Spartans with 15 points.
When Smith was asked how his defense could hold MSU to only shooting 25% in the first half and 67% in the second he said, “Turnovers. They picked it up and became more physical and we didn’t respond.”
The Spartans had no turnovers in the first half and only five for the game. A stunned Izzo said, “Zero turnovers in the first half probably hasn’t happened in the 30 years I have been here and only five for the game probably never.”
Keith Appling scored 14 for the Spartans along with three assists and four rebounds. Adreian Payne was the only other Spartan to score in double digits. He dropped in 11 points and added seven rebounds. Appling and Harris played an amazing 36 minutes and Derrick Nix added 32.
Smith referenced the maturation of Appling calling him one of the, “Best” guards in not only the Big Ten, but the country.
The Spartans return to the court on Saturday to take on Purdue at 7 PM. That game can be seen on BTN.