It wasn’t pretty or easy, but the Spartans were able to earn another conference victory, something they didn’t even come close to doing a few nights ago in Columbus, where they got blown out by the Buckeyes.
A near game-winning buzzer beater at the end of regulation by Rutgers junior guard Corey Sanders would have given MSU back-to-back conference losses. But the shot veered off line and the Spartans avoided what would have been a crushing and disappointing consecutive defeat.
No. 4 MSU improved to 4-1 in the Big Ten and swept its season series with Rutgers, beating the Scarlet Knights in overtime, 76-72, Wednesday night at the Breslin Center.
Despite the victory, MSU followed up its poor shooting performance against Ohio State this past Sunday by scoring just 59 points in regulation, a season-low for the team.
"The best thing about the night was when it ended," head coach Tom Izzo said in his postgame press conference. "I was not very happy with how we played."
MSU opened the game on a 9-0 run and Rutgers missed its first four shots of the game. But despite their slow start and MSU’s fast start, the Scarlet Knights were able to stay within striking distance for much of the first half.
The Spartans took a 32-25 advantage into the intermission despite Rutgers being held to just 37 percent on field goals in the half.
MSU quickly gained a 10-point lead to start the second half but the Scarlet Knights would not go away.
Led by an 18-point second half onslaught by Sanders, Rutgers was able to charge back and tie the game at 57 with 90 seconds to go in the game, and eventually took a one-point lead about 30 seconds later.
Sophomore guard Miles Bridges connected on one of two free throws to tie the game at 59 with eight seconds remaining. After Sanders missed on a potential game-winning jump shot at the buzzer, the game went to overtime, which was MSU’s first of the season.
The Spartans were able to take control of the extra period, kicked-started by a Bridges 3-pointer from straight away. The team was able to eventually put the game away with free throws.
“I thought we played hard, I thought it was a great game, we just didn’t have enough,” Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell said after the game.
Sophomore forward Nick Ward led all scorers on the team with 17 points on 5-of-9 field goal shooting. Freshman forward Jaren Jackson Jr. followed closely behind with 16 points.
With the win MSU improves to 16-2 overall, best for first place in the conference along with Purdue who shares the same overall record. The team will now gear for a rivalry matchup against Michigan on Saturday at noon in the Breslin.
The Wolverines (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten) are coming off of a one-point loss to the Boilermakers on Tuesday and are currently seventh in the Big Ten.