With first place in the Big Ten no longer Michigan State basketball’s to lose, the Spartans must take care of Minnesota on Sunday.
An Indiana loss may not have been expected, but Michigan State needs to learn from it and move on as the Spartans are in Minnesota for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the Gophers.
Minnesota is 11-8 on the season but very difficult to beat at home. The Gophers have a 4-0 record at home in conference play while the Spartans dropped to 1-2 on the road with a tough defeat at Indiana on Thursday night. They nearly pulled off the comeback against the Hoosiers, but mistakes down the stretch led to the defeat.
Speaking of mistakes, getting out to sluggish starts and not showing a sense of urgency late in games with either a slim lead or slight deficit is not going to work moving forward. The Spartans were down 15 at Indiana in the first half before coming back and taking a 3-point lead, but that soon evaporated because of sloppy play and no sense of urgency.
If Michigan State is going to win at Minnesota, Cassius Winston is going to need to play one of his better games and Xavier Tillman must step up — no more casual turnovers.
Aaron Henry, too, must get back on track because his five turnovers against Indiana were critical hits.
Here’s how you can watch Sunday’s game at Minnesota:
Date: Sunday, Jan. 26
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Location: Minneapolis, Minn.
Venue: Williams Arena
Live Stream: FOX Sports Go
Keys to Victory
This one won’t be easy, by any means, but the Spartans must get off to a quick start and not fall behind by double-digits like they did at Purdue and at Indiana in their last two road games. Taking an early lead, building on it and extending that in the second half is obviously ideal, but just keeping pace with the Gophers from the get-go will be imperative.
While getting off to a quick start is important, so is defending the post. Minnesota does have Malik Carr, but the Gophers’ best player is Daniel Oturu. If they can slow him down in the paint and make him work like they did in the first meeting, the Gophers won’t be able to score consistently. Lock down the post and make the Gophers beat you from outside.
Players to Watch
The aforementioned Oturu leads the Gophers in scoring, but Minnesota isn’t exactly an elite offensive team. The Gophers still have some solid scorers who are starting to catch fire.
- Daniel Oturu: 19.7 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 59% FG
- Marcus Carr: 16.3 points, 6.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 34% 3-point shooting
- Gabe Kalscheur: 11.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, 33% 3-point shooting
I predicted a three-point loss to Indiana on Thursday night fully expecting a split for Michigan State this week and while the Gophers are a tough team to beat right now, the Spartans should handle their business on Sunday afternoon. Cassius will have a nice bounce-back game as he’ll carry the Spartans to a win with Gabe Brown remaining white-hot.
Final Score: Michigan State 71, Minnesota 67