FINAL: Comeback complete, MSU down 13 at half beats Minnesota in OT 75-74
The MSU basketball team improves to 9-5 overall against Minnesota (12-2 overall) after a thriller in the land of 10,000 lakes, downing the Golden Gophers in overtime, 75-74.
The Spartans trailed by 13 at the half after shooting just 10-for-29 from the field, for just 34.5 percent. The Golden Gophers, however, had two players, freshman guard Amir Coffey and sophomore guard Dupree McBrayer, in double-digit scoring at the half.
With 28.3 seconds remaining in regulation, freshman forward Nick Ward would step up to the free-throw line. Shooting 4-for-12 from the stripe at that point, Ward missed, giving the Golden Gophers one more shot at the game. Coffey on the other end, turning for an elbow jumper, clanked out and time expired, giving way for overtime.
Freshman guard Joshua Langford started off the first half scoring. After two Minnesota free throws, the game was gridlocked until junior guard Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. drained a 3-point basket, pushing the lead to 71-68.
After surrendering two layups, the Spartans turned to fifth-year senior guard Eron Harris, who drove the lane and pulled the Spartans on top. Another pair of Golden Gopher free throws put the Spartans down one.
Out of the MSU timeout, the Spartans looked to senior guard Alvin Ellis III, who was fouled driving the lane – he would make both. With 10.6 remaining, the Golden Gophers would hoist one last shot, missing and completing the MSU comeback.
After his career-high 25 points against Oakland, Ward was the target man for an ever struggling MSU offense – the second worst in the Big Ten. In the first half, Ward would score nine points and shoot 3-for-8 from the free-throw line. In the second half, the Spartans found more success having guards attack the rim, rather than feeding Ward. After falling out of the offense, he sprung back into the mix, being the headliner down the stretch for the Spartans. Ward would finish the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
MSU took the first four minute stretch to cut the lead down to six points. Led by Ellis, MSU corralled rebounds and pushed up court to finish layup after layup. Ellis — averaging just four points per game this year — knocked down baskets from all over the court. Even making fade-away jumpers with a shoe untied.
Out of the Minnesota timeout, the Golden Gophers attacked the basket. Earning a trip to the line and an uncontested layup, Minnesota quickly pushed the lead back up to nine points, before Nairn knocked down a 3-point field goal to end the run.
In the next five minutes, the Golden Gophers continually attacked the basket. Not only finding easy layups, but Minnesota earned trip after trip to the free-throw line. The Golden Gophers shot 45 free throws for the game, converting 31 of them.
At the 11:55 minute mark, Minnesota had asserted its dominance once again, leading by 12 points.
The Spartans wouldn't quit, however. The speed of Nairn would spin the heads of Golden Gophers, as he whizzed by them in the open court. The Spartan defense would also pick it up, holding Minnesota to a scoring drought of almost two and a half minutes.
Ellis would stretch a 13-1 Spartan run with his third 3-pointer of the game. This basket pulled the Spartans back within two points. On the next possession, Ellis would attack the basket, finishing high on the glass to tie the ball game.
After trailing by 13 at the half, MSU battled its way back into the lead with six minutes remaining in the game for the first time since the score was 6-5.
Entering the final three minutes, Minnesota was 1 for its last 10 field goals and MSU led by three points.
Minnesota's duo of Coffey and junior guard Nate Mason kept the Golden Gophers in the game down the stretch. Mason scored 18 points while Coffey added 17 of his own. Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy added 21 rebounds for Minnesota.
MSU will play Northwestern on Dec. 30 in East Lansing for its next Big Ten conference game. The game is set to tip-off at 6 p.m. and will be televised on Big Ten Network.