Spartans dismantle Minnesota in a 76-47 shellacking

Gophers vs. Georgia State
61-68

Matt Mead

Gophers vs. Georgia State 61-68

On Thursday, the Gophers held a top-20 Illinois team to 16 points in the first half and 28 percent shooting overall, lending hope that they could pull off an upset over No. 13 Michigan State. Instead, it was the Gophers who could only muster 16 first-half points Wednesday, as just about all hopes of an upset drained before the game was 15 minutes old. The Spartans built a 26-point halftime lead — guard Durrell Summers outscored the Gophers by himself in the first half — and cruised to a 76-47 win in East Lansing. A game that was billed as redemption for the Gophers after a 12-point loss to the Spartans on New Year’s Eve ended up as a much bigger an embarrassment. The No. 19 Gophers shot just 29 percent from the floor, and their open shots were few and far between. Poor shooting, which included a handful of first-half lay-ups, combined with 15 turnovers to make for a lot of fast-break points for the Spartans. “I’m disappointed in our aggressiveness,” coach Tubby Smith said on his postgame radio show. “We knew aggression was going to be the thing. Once again they pulverized us on the boards and we never really responded with the toughness we needed to have. It was a tough, tough night.” Freshmen centers Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson combined for just six points and struggled to get good position over Michigan State big men Goran Suton and Marquise Gray. Sampson and Iverson also combined for just eight rebounds as the Gophers were outrebounded 42-26 — also a season-low mark. “They really took Ralph out of the game,” Smith said. “He just got pushed and shoved. He knows that he’s got to learn to fight back. We tried to run plays for our big guys and set some screens, and they just knocked us off the screens.” All of that happened with Michigan State forward Raymar Morgan, a preseason All-Big Ten pick and perhaps the Spartans’ best player, who missed the game with walking pneumonia. Summers picked up the slack, though, scoring 21 points. Devoe Joseph was the lone bright spot for the Gophers, scoring 11 points off the bench. Joseph was, in fact, the only Gophers play to score in double digits, while leading scorers Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson combined for just nine. “Tonight, we just allowed them to push and shove us all over the court,” Smith said. “If you do that, you’re not going to win a lot of games.” Michigan State jumped out to a 13-1 lead, and after a short Minnesota counter-run, went on a 17-0 run in what coach Tom Izzo called the team’s best half of the season. The Gophers could’ve reached a tie for first-place with a win, but instead dropped back to fifth in the logjam that is the top half of the Big Ten. They travel to Ohio State on Saturday, whom they are now tied with in the conference. “Hopefully we won’t soil ourselves like we did tonight,” Smith said with a laugh. “We were scared; I thought we soiled our pants tonight.”