Gophers can’t compete with State

Michigan State never lost control in an 81-62 win Wednesday in East Lansing, Mich.

Bob Wothe

Dan Monson was more upset Wednesday night than he has been all season.

The coach of Minnesota’s men’s basketball team threw his jacket to the floor early in the first half and ran onto the court screaming, drawing an instant technical foul.

His shirt was untucked and senior guard Aaron Robinson had to hold him back, while other Gophers tried to calm their leader down by patting him on the back and calmly talking to him.

And that all happened before Minnesota and Monson got handed their second-worst loss of the season.

No. 12 Michigan State (18-4, 9-2 Big Ten) shot 57 percent on its way to destroying Minnesota 81-62 on Wednesday at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.

It was Minnesota’s (16-9, 6-6) third-straight loss – equaling the team’s longest drought of the season.

But it wasn’t the type of loss most might have expected.

After a week of endless talk about the Gophers’ inefficient offense, it was their lack of defense that was their ultimate downfall.

The Spartans shot 57 percent from the field largely because their transition game got them easy layups and 17 fast-break points.

But even when Michigan State did miss, Tom Izzo’s squad usually got another chance. And for the second time this season, the Spartans outrebounded the Gophers handily, this time by a 36-25 margin.

More telling, though, in comparing the two games, was the flat-out offensive dominance the Spartans displayed Wednesday.

In its first meeting with Minnesota this season, Michigan scored 69 points on 19 field goals, with 26 points coming from the free-throw line.

This time around, Michigan State eclipsed the 69-point mark with more than eight minutes left.

The Spartans finished with 32 field goals, and only No. 1 Illinois has had more made baskets (33) against the Gophers this season.

On top of that, the Spartans converted 16 Gophers turnovers into 21 points.

The game was never really close. After a back-and-forth first five minutes, the Spartans took an 8-7 lead and never trailed again.

It was 12-9 when Monson got his technical, and Michigan State ran its lead up to eight at 23-15.

The Gophers were able to draw within two at 26-24, but the Spartans closed the first half on a 19-7 run to take a 45-31 lead into halftime. At the break, they were shooting nearly 63 percent from the field.

That lead ballooned to 22 at 66-44 and stayed around 20 the rest of the way, as Minnesota was never able to get closer than 16.

Vincent Grier once again led the Gophers in scoring, with 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting. He also had three assists.

Joining Grier in double-figures scoring were Dan Coleman and Jeff Hagen, who finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.

In perhaps the one bright spot of the night, Minnesota had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio for the first time since its Feb. 5 win over Wisconsin.

The Gophers’ 17 assists were their most since 22 in their Big Ten opener against Penn State.