Men's basketball looks to avoid loss in classic trap game vs. Minnesota
With four games remaining in Big Ten play, it’s ideal that the men’s basketball team is playing its best basketball of the season. But with No. 5 Wisconsin around the corner, the Spartans will first have to face an athletic Minnesota team in what is a classic trap game.
MSU (19-8 overall, 9-4 Big Ten) will host Minnesota (16-12 overall, 5-10 Big Ten) Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Despite the conference record, the Golden Gophers have been competitive in nearly every game. Nine matches have been decided by six points or less, seven of which were losses.
Men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo, who has been on the wrong end of a number of competitive games, isn’t taking Thursday’s opponent lightly.
“When they lost those six at the start of the season, or whatever they lost, they were all very close games,” Izzo said on Wednesday. “I think that speaks volumes. That they are a very good team, and they’ve just been a little bit unlucky and just didn’t get the job done.”
The Golden Gophers — led by senior guard Andre Hollins and redshirt senior forward Maurice Walker — are a big team that can give the Spartans issues in the paint. They are also the third best team in the NCAA in the steals category with 10.1 per game.
The high steal total shows Minnesota’s size and athleticism, two traits the Spartans have struggled with this season.
“They have some good young kids that they are starting, and they have started a bigger lineup, at least they have the last couple of games,” Izzo said. “With a 6-foot-9 wing guy, and those things can cause a problem for us.”
Izzo is pleased with the play of his seniors, forward Branden Dawson and guard Travis Trice. The pair have played phenomenally over the course of MSU’s four-game winning streak, and Izzo would like to see it continue.
“Trice is definitely stepped up,” Izzo said. “(Junior guard Denzel) Valentine has definitely been there, and Dawson is becoming the defensive player that will hopefully get the recognition he deserves in the league. Not only is he defending different positions, but his shot blocking has been phenomenal. He has done a great job of that.”