Entering Wednesday night’s conference battle in East Lansing against conference rival Michigan State, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were seemingly poised to atone for their collapse against the Spartans two weeks earlier. Minnesota had been elevated into the Top 25 on Monday for the first time since 2013 and had revenge on their minds as they took the court.
Whatever drive the Golden Gophers had was quickly put in park by Tom Izzo’s squad as Michigan State dominated Minnesota, 65-47. One of the key reasons for the loss was that the Golden Gophers had no answer during the first half for freshman standout Miles Bridges, who had missed the December 27 matchup with a sprained ankle.
Bridges notched all of his 16 points during the opening 20 minutes, which helped Michigan State head to intermission with a commanding 39-17 advantage. The contest was effectively decided during the final 5:30 of the half, when the Spartans put together a devastating 15-0 run.
Yet it was clear that Minnesota was struggling from the outset. For most of the opening four minutes, they managed only a single basket, watching Michigan State score seven unanswered points. After Dupree McBrayer connected on a three-pointer with 14:06 left in the half to make it a 13-9 game in favor of the Spartans, the Golden Gophers could only muster four baskets for the rest of the half.
Minnesota never led during the game and never put together anything resembling a comeback effort during the second half, with Michigan State maintaining a lead of 20 or more points for much those final 20 minutes.
The Golden Gophers balanced scoring attack, which has four scorers averaging in double figures this season, was anything but that during the first half. McBrayer was seemingly the only Minnesota player who could find the basket, collecting 11 points on five-of-eight from the field.
In contrast, the rest of the team managed a miserable 15 percent on their field goal attempts during this time, missing on 17 of their 20 shots. Nate Mason was held scoreless during the half, which was a clear sign that this wasn’t the Golden Gophers’ night.
Mason managed to finish with 14 points, but his scoring had no impact on the game. Much the same can be said about Amir Coffey’s evening, with the freshman guard managing to score just four points, while the other part of the Minnesota scoring quartet, sophomore Jordan Murphy, contributed just six points.
Ordinarily, that foursome is good for nearly 50 points a game, a threshold that the Golden Gophers weren't able to break. They were able to end the night with 35 points, though as noted, many of those came long after the game had been decided.
Being a young team, such hiccups should be expected. The Golden Gophers have been performing much better than preseason expectations, and are now left hoping their success has not been a fluke. Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino is hoping that the lasting sting from this thrashing will instill a greater sense of urgency on his team as it competes in the Big Ten.