Four takeaways from No. 2 men's basketball blowout of Minnesota
Three days after passing what was likely their biggest test of the season thus far, and beating No. 6 Purdue at the Breslin Center, the No. 2 men’s basketball team went on the road and took care of business against Minnesota (14-14, 3-12 Big Ten).
Despite the Golden Gophers' lowly record, the Spartans turned in their best road performance of the season, an area where they haven’t always played up to par.
Here are four takeaways from MSU’s 87-57 win over Minnesota:
No let down
Saturday’s win over Purdue was arguably the team’s best all season, considering the Boilermakers were the No. 3 team going into the game and nearly went in yielding a 20-game winning streak if not for a one-point home loss to then-No. 14 Ohio State University three days prior.
So it was interesting to see if the Spartans could avoid the typical let down game against a team that only has three conference wins up to this point.
MSU didn’t just avoid a let down. Avoiding a let down would be barely holding off a team that just won’t go away. The team didn’t even let the chance of a let down happen, evidenced by the 30-point disparity in the final score.
This type of performance should be comforting to Spartan fans, as the team displayed the type mental focus that will be required in postseason play, especially after riding such an emotional high from Saturday.
MSU made 64 percent of its 3-point attempts against Minnesota, which is the team’s best mark in a game all year. But that wasn’t the most impressive aspect of the Spartan’s performance on Tuesday.
The Golden Gophers shot just 32 percent from the field against a locked-in MSU defense, and hovered around the 21 percent mark at points in the first half.
The Spartans did everything required of a stout defense performance. They stayed solid on one-on-one drives, closed off dribble penetration and limited Minnesota’s good looks at the basket.
For much of the game it seemed like the only offense Minnesota could muster up was to chuck up 3-point shots. In fact, the Golden Gophers shot better from behind the arc than they did on overall field goals.
The 3-point shooting might not be sustainable for MSU, especially against better opponents, but this type of defensive outing definitely can be.
Bounce back game for Jaren Jackson Jr.
Saturday’s win against Purdue was a good night for the team as a whole, but not necessarily for freshman Jaren Jackson Jr.
Jackson played one of his worst games of the season against the Boilermakers, as he went 1-for-6, mainly because he was in foul trouble for much of the game and only being on the court for 13 minutes.
Tuesday night was a completely different story for the freshman, however. Jackson finished with a career-high 27 points against Minnesota, and terrorized the Golden Gophers from all over the court in a variety of ways, from slashing dunks, to post-up scores and even from 3-point territory, where he went 5-of-8.
Jackson’s freshman campaign has featured several broken records and accomplishments, but on Tuesday. Jackson accomplished something for the first time in his young collegiate career: zero fouls.
Foul trouble has been a well-documented problem for the freshman throughout the season. The more Jackson is on the court, the better the Spartans will be.
Izzo agrees with Engler’s comments on ESPN report
Interim president John Engler released a statement Tuesday discussing the effects of the Larry Nassar case on the MSU community, and the investigations into the University that are still ongoing.
“While the investigations are ongoing, activity in lawsuits representing well over 100 survivors continues to move forward,” Engler said in a press release. “I'm following the progress closely as we work to return to mediation and, I fervently hope, a just resolution that helps the survivors bring some closure to this horrific chapter in their lives. Michigan State, too, needs to heal and to emerge a stronger institution, one where safety, respect, and civility are hallmarks.”
In the press release, Engler stated his concerns with the ESPN investigative report that suggests a culture of sexual assault and violence against women among athletes.
“Finally, I viewed with great concern a recent ESPN report that gathered considerable national attention in no small part because it showed a promotional graphic of our head football and men’s basketball coaches Larry Nassar. This was a sensationalized package of reporting that contained allegations and insinuations that we are now reviewing,” Engler said. “The coaches were asked to refrain from comment while the reports were examined. That has been a burden that must be lifted. I hope MSU can soon respond in full and affirm the integrity and probity that has been the hallmark of these two respected coaches.”
Along with saying Engler’s statement looked “really good,” head coach Tom Izzo agreed with Engler and said the coaches having to refrain from commenting on the ESPN report is a burden.
“Yeah, there has been a little burden to it. Until the investigations came it was more of my decision and he wasn’t even president then, but since that comes, I mean that’s pretty common," Izzo said in his postgame press conference Tuesday. "Again I said it before, there will be a time I will talk.”