Men’s hoops cold shooting equals loss

by Anthony Maggio

It’s difficult enough to win a basketball game on the road in the Big Ten without suffering a poor shooting night.

But Minnesota’s men’s basketball team found out in its 71-61 loss to Michigan State that 36.5-percent from the field makes leaving the Breslin Center with a victory nearly impossible.

“They played us very physical and frustrated us on the offensive end,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “We just never got into an offensive rhythm.”

The Gophers (16-8, 8-5 Big Ten) undercut themselves, shooting just 19-of-29 from the free throw line in the foul-ridden contest. Minnesota missed the front end of a one-and-one on five occasions.

Three straight front-end misses came with 10 minutes to play and the Gophers down 12 points. Instead of potentially cutting the lead to six points, Minnesota wound up down 14 with nine minutes to play.

Meanwhile, Michigan State (15-11, 7-6) took advantage of the whistles, hitting 31-of-40 free throws, making the difference in a game where both teams hit only 19 shots from the floor.

“You can’t win on the road going 19-of-29 from the line,” associate head coach Mike Petersen told WCCO radio. “It’s too hard.”

Minnesota drops to fifth place in the conference, a half game behind fourth place Purdue. Wisconsin (20-6, 10-4) is in sole possession of first place after beating Michigan on Wednesday night.

Both Minnesota and Michigan State slogged through a game that had all the rhythm of an 85-year-old attempting to break dance. The officiating crew blew their whistles as if in a parade, calling 53 fouls in the contest.

Rick Rickert fouled out with 17 seconds left, and four more Gophers finished with four fouls. Three Spartans finished with four fouls as well.

Between the whistles, Michigan State managed a 16-5 run at the beginning of the second half to jump out to a 16-point advantage.

After cutting the lead to 12 with nine minutes to play, the Gophers put together a 16-9 run over the next seven minutes, reducing the Spartans’ lead to five with 1:32 remaining.

Maurice Hargrow’s three cut Michigan State’s lead to four points with 47 seconds left, but Minnesota would get no closer.

The Gophers missed their final three shots while the Spartans closed out the game shooting 6-of-6 from the free throw line to put the game away.

“I thought we took Rickert, (Jerry) Holman and (Michael) Bauer out of their offense, which was a very big key for us,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

In fact, Bauer, Holman and Kevin Burleson were all held scoreless in the first half. Bauer and Holman both average double-figures.

Bauer finished the game with six, Holman four and Burleson two.

Minneapolis native Alan Anderson led the Spartans with 18 points, while adding four assists and six rebounds. Kelvin Torbert dropped 17 on the Gophers. Michigan State is now 9-0 this season when Anderson and Torbert both score in double digits.

Despite Anderson and Torbert’s efforts, Minnesota’s defense was fairly successful, holding the Spartans to 37.3 percent shooting from the field and 2-of-10 from three-point range. Chris Hill, Michigan State’s scoring leader, was just 2-of-11 shooting and 0-of-6 from behind the arc.

The Gophers actually out-rebounded the Spartans 44-40, only the fourth time Michigan State has lost the rebounding battle all season. But Minnesota was unable to overcome its second-lowest point total of the season.

Hargrow led the Gophers with 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Rick Rickert scored 13 before fouling out, and Steve Esselink added 11 off the bench.

Petersen said Jeff Hagen suffered a separated shoulder in the first half, but Hagen re-entered the game.

Minnesota plays its final home game of the season Sunday against the Badgers.

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]