Quantcast 2011 Michigan State Basketball: Michigan State @ Minnesota

2011 Michigan State Basketball

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Michigan State Spartans @ Minnesota Golden Gophers Basketball Recap

Michigan State 53, Minnesota 48

The season was slip-sliding away from the Michigan State Spartans in an ultimate bubble battle. Then, just when things looked particularly bleak for one of college basketball’s foremost powers over the past decade, a final push turned an ugly game into a beautiful result for the program known as Sparty.

Coach Tom Izzo has directed Michigan State to each of the past two Final Fours and six such extravaganzas since 1999, a phenomenal rate of consistency exceeded in the past quarter century by only one man: Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who led the Blue Devils to six Final Fours from 1988 through 1994. Michigan State figured to have a Final Four-level club this season, but for whatever reason, many of the same component parts just haven’t been able to mesh. Nobody on the Spartans has been able to hit three-point shots with any consistency, and a lack of explosive power near the rim has made MSU quite guardable at the offensive end of the floor. This team has still delivered solid defense, but it simply has not been able to score in 2011. All these problems were emerging once again on Tuesday night in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but Sparty somehow found a way to revive itself in the nick of time. 

Spartans Apparel The Minnesota Golden Gophers had Michigan State by the throat. Coach Tubby Smith’s team, also fighting for its NCAA Tournament existence, used a 9-0 run to take a 47-40 lead over Sparty with 4:15 left in regulation in an ugly, grinding affair. Michigan State went scoreless for 4:49 during that run, and the Spartans scored two points in a stretch of seven minutes and 56 seconds in a larger span of time that exceeded the 9-0 surge from the home team. The culprit, of course, was the perimeter game for MSU. Kalin Lucas led all Spartans with 18 points, but an ugly brick started a Minnesota fast break that led to two points during that 9-0 run. Then, a three that was passed up by MSU’s Keith Appling led to a Minnesota steal and layup which propelled the Gophers to their late seven-point advantage. MSU looked dead in the water, with no signs of life, but that’s when Minnesota opened the door just enough to give Sparty one last look at a comeback. 

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The Gophers, once in the lead, did not demonstrate good shot selection. Entries into the low post were eschewed in favor of contested long jump shots. Michigan State gobbled up the rebounds off misses and then ran the floor the other way. On one of these secondary breaks, Durrell Summers – the talented MSU wing who has been suffering through a miserable season – finally buried a three, his only one of the night on six attempts, to pull MSU within a point of the Gophers at 47-46. The shot fueled Sparty’s confidence and allowed Izzo’s athletes to see the finish line. The Gophers, without a point guard thanks to Al Nolen’s injury and Devoe Joseph’s defection to Oregon, proved to be rudderless in the final minutes. Michigan State smothered the Gophers and made multiple trips to the foul line in the final minutes, carving out a 52-48 lead on free throws by Appling and Mike Kiebler in the final minute. Neither team hit a field goal in the final 2:47 after the Summers bomb, but Michigan State’s parade of foul shots sank the Gophers and created a 14-1 MSU run in the final 4:15, putting Team Tubby on the bad side of the bubble in the race for the NCAAs. Sparty, however, is now very likely to go Dancing and cause a lot of trouble as a lower-range seed.

Michigan State isn’t a complete team. However, Sparty has managed to put itself in position to make a return trip to Bracketville. If this team can ever get out of its own way, watch out.


By Matt Zemek
BigTen-fans.com Correspondent



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