Inconsistency bites again in Gophers’ loss at MSU

Minnesota struggled on offense and defense in a 61-50 loss in East Lansing, Mich.

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins dribbles the ball down the court against Iowa on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins dribbles the ball down the court against Iowa on Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Andrew Krammer

The Big Ten, known as one of the country’s toughest conferences, is not the place to be inconsistent.

Austin Hollins went from hero to scapegoat in No. 18 Minnesota’s 61-50 loss to No. 12 Michigan State on Wednesday in East Lansing, Mich.

After hitting the game-winning shot against Iowa on Sunday, Hollins shot 3-for-13 from the field, including 0-for-7 from long range.

Minnesota is now 5-5 in Big Ten play and has lost five of its last seven games.

The Gophers are 1-4 in conference road games after letting a 20-18 halftime lead slip away quickly in the final 20 minutes.

Coach Tubby Smith came out with a 2-3 zone defense for one of the first times this season, which seemed to stifle the Spartans’ offense at first.

But a six-minute scoring drought by the Gophers let the Spartans grab a 12-point lead with 10 minutes left in the game.

Minnesota gave MSU a late scare, drawing within four points at the 2:48 mark.

But the Gophers shot 1-for-7 after that, while the Spartans didn’t miss a field goal and went 8-for-11 from the free throw line.

Spartans point guard Keith Appling’s dominance ended after he said he saw his shoulder “pop out” with 1:17 left in the game, according to MLive.

Appling and freshman Gary Harris lit up Smith’s zone, combining to shoot 7-for-12 from three-point range. Michigan State shot 50 percent from beyond the arc as a team.

As the Spartans heated up in the second half, the Gophers cooled. They were outscored 43-30 in the final period.

Minnesota shot a Big Ten-best 57 percent in its Dec. 31 win against Michigan State, but it was held to 37 percent Wednesday.

Gophers starters Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins and Joe Coleman combined to shoot 29 percent from the field.

Trevor Mbakwe failed to score in double digits for the fourth straight game with nine points, but he finished with a game-high 14 rebounds.

Smith said after Tuesday’s practice that feeding the frontcourt would be a priority against the Spartans.

But the Gophers’ backcourt again had trouble feeding Mbakwe and Rodney Williams in the post. The pair shot 60 percent on 10 shots combined.

The Spartans didn’t turn the ball over in the first half and finished with five turnovers. The Gophers had 12.