Senior class key in upset of Michigan State

All five seniors scored in double figures in Saturday’s 69-55 upset win over the Spartans.

by C.J. Spang

With 2:26 remaining in its game against Michigan State, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team had five seniors on the floor ” all with 10 points apiece.

It was a heartwarming moment for a group of seniors that has had more than its fair share of disappointment this season.

“We’ve had some seniors that have had tough years,” coach Dan Monson said. “I told them in the locker room after the game, “Tonight was a senior moment.’ This belonged to them.”

Senior guard Vincent Grier led the team with 15 points, senior forward Zach Puchtel scored a career-high 13 points, senior forward J’son Stamper dropped in 12 points, senior guard Adam Boone scored 10 points and senior guard Maurice Hargrow chipped in 10 points off the bench.

“The seniors really played a big part in this victory,” Grier said.

Only Hargrow was on the team for the last Gophers victory over Michigan State, on Jan. 18, 2003.

The rest were in various stages of their playing career.

Grier was playing for Charlotte, Puchtel was attending Harvard, Boone was sitting out a year for transferring from North Carolina and Stamper was playing for Independence Community College.

But Williams Arena saw them all come together for one of the biggest wins of the season.

“It was awesome,” Puchtel said. “Coach Monson was just saying it’s a senior moment out there. We’re going to have five seniors out on the court at the end, and it’s up to us to finish it off. And we stepped up and took care of business.”

They didn’t just take care of business at the end of the game.

Those five seniors scored all of Minnesota’s 38 second-half points but not because they didn’t pass the ball.

No player scored more than four consecutive points for the Gophers as they dished out eight assists in the second half.

“Seniors have to step up for any team to be good,” Puchtel said. “I feel like at the beginning of the season it was kind of like people were searching for leadership roles, waiting for other people to step up.”

And having five seniors, waiting for someone else to take charge wasn’t what Monson expected.

Before the season started, Monson often spoke about the amount of experience this team returned and how that would be key for this year’s squad.

But as of late, Monson has seen his seniors take charge of a squad that has been looking for its identity all season long.

“The last couple games, everyone has taken it upon themselves,” Puchtel said. “All five seniors just to be like, ‘Let’s go, we have to do this,’ so it’s really been a total senior and team effort.”