Monday, September 20, 2021

Spartans wear down Minnesota, end two game losing streak

January 9, 2019
<p>Senior center Jenna Allen (33) goes up for a layup during the first half of the game against Minnesota on Jan. 9, 2019 at Breslin Center. The Spartans lead the Gophers, 43-29 at halftime.</p>

Senior center Jenna Allen (33) goes up for a layup during the first half of the game against Minnesota on Jan. 9, 2019 at Breslin Center. The Spartans lead the Gophers, 43-29 at halftime.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

A frosty Wednesday night set the scene for a top 25 matchup between No. 23 Michigan State and No. 18 Minnesota, each looking to end their two game losing streaks. For Minnesota, the ride home will be a little colder as the Spartans came away with a 86-68 victory over the Golden Gophers.

Sidney Cook had a tremendous game off the bench on both sides of the court, leading MSU with points (21), and tallying three blocks. Minnesota’s duo of Destiny Pitts and Kenisha Bell put forth a valiant effort and combined for more than half of the points with 35.

“I just really wanted to be mentally focused for this game,” Cooks said. "All the good teams have people that can come off the bench and be able to contribute. Coming off the bench and helping my teammates out, that’s what I got to do so that’s what I’m going to do.”

The first quarter was a match of sevens: seven assists for MSU, and seven turnovers for Minnesota. The opening minutes of the game saw a closely contended game as the Spartans struggled for a slim early lead.

On one side of the court, Minnesota’s passing led to turnovers, while on the other the Spartans’ passing led to assists. This amounted in a ten point lead for MSU with 2:13 left in the quarter. Minnesota quickly recovered, scoring a flurry of fast break buckets highlighted by a Pitts three to end the quarter only down three.

“We were doing some kind of silly things, we had different combinations in there,” Merchant said. 

Minnesota opened the second quarter quickly with a hard drive by Kenisha Bell, who was fouled and completed both free throws. MSU’s Jenna Allen quickly returned a favor with a bucket on her own end. From here the Spartans began to perform like a well oiled machine. 

“I think they did a good job of attacking us at that point,” said MSU coach Suzy Merchant.

MSU’s defense continued to force turnovers, while shots started to fall more regularly on offense, particularly in the paint where the Spartans outscored Minnesota 26 points to 16. By the time halftime came around the Spartans had worked up a 14 point lead, 43-29, while accumulating 15 assists and just two turnovers.

The third quarter saw the teams continue to exchange baskets back and forth, with the Golden Gophers hanging around with MSU threatening to break away. Minnesota once again came out strong with a fast break bucket by Jasmine Brunson, followed by a drawn foul by Annalese Lamke. Cook played solid minutes in the third, scoring with tenacious efficiency under the basket. 

Minnesota’s combo of Pitts and Bell proved a challenge for the Spartans through the third, as they worked the lead down to 10.

The Spartans began to wear down Minnesota, however. The Golden Gophers fought hard, but an unwavering inside attack from MSU saw the lead more than double. As the final minutes closed in, Minnesota looked tired after fighting a physical battle all night. MSU was poised and finished a stretch that saw them play three games in a week with a victory.

“I just really wanted to be mentally focused for this game,” Cooks said. "All the good teams have people that can come off the bench and be able to contribute. Coming off the bench and helping my teammates out, that’s what I got to do so that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Spartans finished the night with 28 assists and just 8 turnovers, while scoring 23 points off Minnesota’s 19 turnovers. The MSU bench outscored Minnesota’s 34-8, and at one point had a lead of 24 with 2:31 left in the fourth. 

MSU will travel next Monday, Jan. 14 with at 7 p.m. at Ohio State.


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