Seeking a rare Big Ten road win at Minnesota on Tuesday night, Michigan State's men's basketball team shot 57% from the field and 63% from the three-point line in the first half. The Spartans had a nine-point lead with 12 minutes to play.
But they couldn't convert from the free-throw line all night, and it cost them.
Michigan State shot 7-for-17 on foul shots and missed five down the stretch in its 59-56 loss to the Golden Gophers, an avoidable slip in what could've been the team's 11th win in 14 games. The defeat moved the Spartans back to .500 in conference play ahead of their most crucial span of the season.
Minnesota clawed back from a nine-point deficit to take a late lead on the back of guard Cam Christie, brother of former MSU guard Max Christie, who went 5-for-7 from beyond the arc in a 19-point, six-rebound showing.
"Give Cam Christie credit," MSU head coach Tom Izzo said postgame. “"He made some big-time shots. You can't miss that many free throws. You can't do what we did and win against good teams."
In a year featuring poor three-point shooting stretches and rebounding woes, free-throw shooting has been an issue at times for MSU. The team missed 17 foul shots in a season-opening overtime loss to James Madison and is down over five percent at the charity stripe from last season.
MSU's Tyson Walker appeared to aggravate a groin injury in the second half, which left the Spartans without their main source of offense as the Gophers stormed back. Walker went to the locker room but would return to play the remainder of the game.
Minnesota's Dawson Garcia nailed a tiebreaking three-pointer with 1:27 remaining in the game to give the Gophers a three-point lead. With 20 seconds left, A.J. Hoggard was fouled on a three-point attempt.
He made the first two free throws but missed the third, a shot that would have tied the game. Minnesota sealed the game with two free throws from Christie and a stop on MSU's last gasp.
Walker finished with 20 points, scoring in double figures for the 34th consecutive game, the longest streak under Izzo.
Tuesday night also marked Izzo's 505th regular season game, the most coached at a Big Ten school.
MSU had won five of six games before Tuesday night but again failed to emerge victorious on the road. The team is now 1-5 in true road games this season.
The Spartans will return home to play top-ten Illinois, a team they held an eight-point lead over in the second half in Champaign on Jan. 11 in a three-point loss.
Michigan State and No. 10 Illinois will tip off at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Breslin Center. The game will be aired by CBS.
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