Gophers lose Big Ten opener 75-74 in overtime

Minnesota had four players with four fouls or more in the game against Michigan State.

Gophers guard Nate Mason gets pushed away by Highlanders guard Damon Lynn as they make their way down the court at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2016.

Image by Meagan Lynch

Gophers guard Nate Mason gets pushed away by Highlanders guard Damon Lynn as they make their way down the court at Williams Arena on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2016.

by Jack White

Nate Mason missed an off-balance jump shot for what could’ve been a huge win as time expired in front of a packed Williams Arena crowd.

The 11,407 fans in attendance witnessed Minnesota (12-2, 0-1 Big Ten) lose its Big Ten opener against Michigan State (9-5, 1-0 Big Ten) 75-74 in overtime on Dec. 27.

“We got to find a way to win it,” said head coach Richard Pitino. “You know these games always seem to come down to one or two possessions. Give Michigan State credit; they just found a way to win and we did not.”

Although Mason missed the last shot of the game, he scored the last three points of regulation with a jump shot and a free throw to help the Gophers tie up the Spartans at 66.

The guard finished with 18 points, four assists and five rebounds.

Minnesota’s front court of center Reggie Lynch and forwards Eric Curry and Bakary Konate all faced foul trouble throughout the game. Lynch fouled out of the game in the second half, and Curry and Konate both finished with four fouls.

The Spartans had 26 points in the paint during the second half compared to 12 points in the first.

“You can see the effect that [Lynch] has on the game, just being there bothers people’s shots,” Murphy said. “They’re more hesitant to go in the paint than when he’s not there.”

The Spartans erased most of a 13-point first half deficit with a 7-0 run to start the second.

“I think we got too complacent,” said guard Dupree McBrayer. “We see them scoring, they jumped on us the first five minutes, and we really had no answer.”

Guard Amir Coffey scored 17 points in his first Big Ten game. He also had two steals.

Michigan State was missing its leading scorer in Miles Bridges. The freshman guard averages 16.6 points per game.

Guard Alvin Ellis III came into the game against Minnesota averaging 5.1 points per game. Ellis III scored 20 points against Minnesota, along with 2 blocks.

“[Ellis III] was really good,” Pitino said. “He’s kind of an undersized guy that can hit shots.”

The Spartans eventually took the lead on an Ellis III jump shot with 5:29 to go in the second half. The last time Michigan State had led the game was with 16:44 to go in the first half. Minnesota was up by as much as 15 points before losing the game.

The Spartans forced the Gophers to commit 15 turnovers, while Michigan State had 12.

Minnesota went to the free-throw line 45 times in the game. The team struggled to capitalize on those opportunities though and shot just 68.9 percent from the line.

“We didn’t make free throws when we needed,” Murphy said. “We just didn’t make the big plays, the winning plays.”

The Gophers also struggled from behind the arc. The team hit only three 3-pointers in 13 attempts.

Michigan State also had trouble and shot 27.8 percent from the line; Minnesota finished at 23.1 percent.

The loss marked Minnesota’s first since Nov. 28. The team will head on the road next game to play Purdue (11-2, 0-0).

“Learn why you lose,” Pitino said. “Just find a way to get back up and prepare for obviously a terrific Purdue team.”