East Lansing — Playing short-handed has become the norm for Michigan State, but on Saturday against Minnesota it looked like it was going to finally catch up to the Spartans.
Adreian Payne was on the bench with a boot on his right foot, Travis Trice hadn’t practiced in nearly a week and the Gophers were hitting shots left and right, taking a 10-point lead early in the second half and looking like they were headed to their first win at Breslin Center since 1997.
But No. 5 Michigan State managed to erase a 10-point second-half deficit, hold Minnesota without a field goal for more than 13 minutes, give up a late lead in regulation and still pull out an 87-75 victory over the Gophers in overtime.
“We looked very lethargic, if you ask me,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “They aren’t practicing very well, they aren’t practicing very long, they aren’t practicing very hard and it’s not all their fault. So we didn’t play very well; Minnesota did play well.”
Even without Payne and Trice still severely limited the Spartans (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) are still quite formidable.
Keith Appling scored 24 points, including a 15-for-16 performance from the free throw line. Gary Harris added 19 points and Kenny Kaminksi hit five 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 15 points. Denzel Valentine added nine points and 10 rebounds while Branden Dawson had 10 rebounds.
“Keith was a warrior again, today,” Izzo said. “People have been talking about Keith Appling as one of the more improved players in the league and I think he is. He’s making shots, he defends, has to make passes. There’s a lot on his plate because he has to handle the ball most of the time. I’m pleased with Keith, I’m proud of Keith. He’s not turning it over as much and his assists would be a lot higher if we would have made some shots today.”
It’s not as if Appling is 100 percent, either, but he’s been forced to be Michigan State’s go-to guy with so many others in and out of the lineup.
“You’re not going to feel good every day you wake up,” Appling said. “You’ve got to learn to play through a little bit of pain. But coach does as good a job as he can giving us time off and letting our bodies rest. At the end of the day, it’s up to us to stay in the training room, get therapy or whatever we need. Coach is doing his part, we’ve got to do ours.”
Michigan State struggled to do that in the first half as Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) nailed seven 3-pointers and took a 41-36 lead into halftime. The Gophers extended that lead to 53-43 with just less than 16 minutes to play.
But that’s when the Spartans started to pick it up, going on a 15-0 run to take a 58-53 lead, and in the process, keeping the Gophers from making a field goal for more than 13 minutes.
However, Minnesota would not go away and with Michigan State clinging to 67-66 lead with less than a minute to play, Valentine stole the ball from Austin Hollins and tapped it to Appling, who then fed Valentine on the break. He was fouled and made both free throws to give the Spartans three-point cushion.
Valentine then blocked a 3-point attempt by Andre Hollins and Matt Costello hit two free throws, but Harris missed two free throws after a Minnesota 3-pointer and DeAndre Mathieu scored a layup with 1.9 left to send the game to overtime.
Michigan State was able to regroup and dominate the overtime, outscoring Minnesota 16-4, holding the Gophers without a field goal while Appling scored eight points.
“It was another opportunity,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “We played well in the first 40 minutes and didn’t play well in the overtime. … Any time you go on the road, in a great environment, and you step up for 40 minutes and you don’t win the game, it is a bit of a missed opportunity. But there will be plenty more.”
The Gophers (13-4, 2-2) got the best of the Spartans for most of the first half, taking a 41-36 lead into halftime. It was just the second time this season Michigan State had allowed more than 40 points in the first half; it gave up 47 in a victory at Penn State in the Big Ten opener.
Kaminski was the bright spot for Michigan State, hitting all four of his 3-point attempts.
But Minnesota was effective from long range, as well, hitting 7 of 12 in the opening 20 minutes and getting 11 points from Malik Smith and 10 from Andre Hollins.
Andre Hollins led the Gophers with 24 points while Malik Smith scored 17 and Elliott Eliason had seven points and 11 rebounds.
“We’ve got to get better,” Izzo said. “We didn’t play very well. … I love my team, I really do. If everybody is who they are and we get everybody back … Some of you (media) had a long football season and hopefully will have a long basketball season because we’re gonna be good. We’re gonna be real good. We’ve just got to get it done.”