Minnesota defeated Michigan State 81-56 at Williams Arena, the largest winning margin against MSU in program history. With the win, the Gophers are now 2-1 in conference play and 9-1 on the season. Minnesota has now won back to back games against top 25 opponents, the first time since 2013. Marcus Carr led all scorers with 19.
Lest anyone get it twisted, Minnesota beat the tar out of Michigan State from start to finish. The Gophers never trailed in the game. They were up 20 points at the half. The benches cleared with almost 4 minutes left in the game.
There were three reasons for the score line. First, Minnesota’s energy and rotations were strong all night. They won the energy battle and looked rested and ready to go against a Michigan State team that looked listless and bored. Second, whenever the Gophers’ defense was not ideal Michigan State missed shot after shot. Then, unlike previous games the Gophers cleaned the glass. Minnesota won the rebounding battle 52-36 and pulled down 40 defensive boards. That’s wonderful.
Third, Liam Robbins was a man against small small children. In his best game of the season, Robbins over-matched every Spartan defender. Robbins finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 25 minutes of action. He also affected the Spartans’ offense indirectly. I cannot recall the last time that a Spartans team looked so gun shy avoiding drives.
Robbins’s improvement game over game is a story line to watch because if Minnesota has an inside threat and a rim protector the Gophers can be a very good defensive team. They already have an elite defender in Gabe Kalscheur, who once again shut down the opponent’s best wing. Brandon Johnson and Isaiah Ihnen are both long and Eric Curry is a smart post defender. There is no reason that if Minnesota competes hard on the defensive end every possession that they have the tools to be an elite defensive team.
Oh, their PG is pretty good too.
Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevate. https://t.co/zZkAoPJ5WL— Minnesota Men's Basketball (@GopherMBB) December 29, 2020
Strange as it sounds for a game where Minnesota punked Michigan State I fully believe that Minnesota was playing at best 80% of their potential. Three point shooting remains a nightmare. There were offensive possessions where some bad habits kicked in. Michigan State had a tough night shooting the ball whenever they managed to get open exacerbating their offensive woes. The Spartans are not in full juggernaut mode, and maybe will never get there this season. However, the point of the game is to beat the team in front of you. I was strangely happy that there are a lot of points that the Gophers can clean up from a game they won by 25.
What was pleasant to see was that if the Gophers got out of sync for more than two to three possessions, Pitino was active in bringing the team back to the game plan. For the second game in a row, Pitino out-coached his Big Ten opponent.
Sam Freeman and David Mutaf both scored points.