Michigan State men’s basketball ended their weekend road-trip with a much needed 70-52 win at Minnesota (11-9 overall, 5-5 in Big Ten) Sunday afternoon.
After defeating the Gophers earlier this month, MSU was able to pull out another victory in a similar fashion, led by defensive physicality and board dominance.
Michigan State held a 39-35 edge over the Gophers on the boards. Junior forward Xavier Tillman led the Spartans by snatching 10 of those as well as recording 17 points.
Michigan State found an answer to Minnesota’s big men by fighting their way to the basket to sink 34 points in the paint. Ball movement on the Spartans' end also helped pave the way to their second Big Ten road win of the season, recording 18 assists off of 26 field goals.
Freshman forward Malik Hall appeared in his first career start Sunday afternoon, which he made sure to make memorable, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 overall while grabbing six rebounds for himself.
Neither team was able to produce points consistently on the offensive end. Just under 10 minutes into the competition, the teams combined for a 7-for-28 field goal performance overall.
The Spartans entered the half leading 30-22, and despite coming off of a defining road win against Ohio State, Minnesota never found the shooting rhythm that they needed to catch up.
Minnesota center, and the Spartans' biggest foe of the game, Daniel Oturu came out strong, like the Gophers needed him to. Oturu produced 19 points and six rebounds, but after recording his fourth foul late in the second, the Minnesota big was forced to play a quieter game than he came out wanting to.
The Gophers shot 28.1% overall, compared to the Spartans' 47.3%, aided by several key second-half Spartan scoring runs.
Freshman guard Rocket Watts saw his first start for the Spartans since Dec. 3, which he took advantage of as well. Watts showed his improving basketball IQ in a 4-for-9 shooting performance overall, putting up 10 of the Spartans' points.
Although sophomore forward Aaron Henry did not appear in the starting lineup for the first time this season, the Indianapolis native saw himself some valuable minutes, where he recorded nine points and four rebounds for MSU.
The Spartans will return home for their next Big Ten test against Northwestern on Wednesday.