PREVIEW: MSU men's basketball takes on a rematch against No. 24 Minnesota
MSU men’s basketball (11-6 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) and the No. 24 Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) head for round two in the two teams' regular season bout on Jan. 11.
The first regular season matchup on Dec. 27 was a shake down that took overtime to take it to the distance.
After the Golden Gophers took a 13-point lead into the half, MSU fought off blow after blow to bring the Golden Gophers' lead down to six points. Minnesota built the lead back up to 12 points, but the Spartans mustered enough energy to put themselves within striking distance.
Led by freshman forward Nick Ward, the Spartans’ big man finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Down the stretch, MSU was in need of a new hero to help bail it out. Without freshman forward Miles Bridges, MSU found its guy in senior guard Alvin Ellis III. Ellis stepped up and knocked down three 3-point field goals on his way to a 20-point game.
After a little free basketball, the Spartans prevailed in overtime, 75-74.
Since the loss against MSU, the Golden Gophers have been a dominant force in the Big Ten. Head coach Tom Izzo said in his weekly press conference that Minnesota is potentially a top three team in the Big Ten.
On the road on New Year’s Day against then-No. 15 Purdue Boilermakers, the Golden Gophers bested the Boilermakers in overtime, 91-82, behind 31 points and 11 assists from leading scorer, junior guard Nate Mason. Purdue’s sophomore forward Caleb Swanigan had a game himself, scoring 28 points with 22 rebounds.
“I think (the Golden Gophers) are getting some confidence,” Izzo said. “Their win at Purdue, I mean nobody wins at Purdue, and their win down there was very good. I think nobody argued the fact that Minnesota was a lot better. They had a lot of players back. They get a great freshman in there, but the majority of their team is juniors and seniors and guys that have been around the block. This will be a difficult game.”
No. 24 Minnesota will come into East Lansing red hot after two more wins against Northwestern and Ohio State University.
The Spartans on the other hand will look to rebound after a dominant performance by the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Palestra in Philadelphia. Penn State’s Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr found numerous back cuts for easy dunks. Stevens finished with 18 points, Carr with 14.
Against Penn State, Bridges started in his second return to the court after missing seven games because of a foot injury suffered against then-No. 5 Duke.
Bridges struggled to make much of an impact, scoring just four points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field. He grabbed six rebounds and finished with four fouls.
The rematch is set to take place in East Lansing at 7 p.m. at the Breslin Center and it will be televised on Big Ten Network.