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Hauser's buzzer-beater lifts No. 10 Spartans to 71-69 win over Golden Gophers

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing – Michigan State hadn’t played in a week, and it looked like a team shaking off some rust.

Hosting Minnesota, a team that had lost two in a row, the Spartans struggled defensively and couldn’t keep the Golden Gophers off the offensive glass, but thanks to an A.J. Hoggard drive and dish to Joey Hauser in the final seconds, No. 10 Michigan State pulled out a 71-69 victory Wednesday at the Breslin Center for its ninth straight victory.

“The name of the game is find a way to win and move on, and we did,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Minnesota had scored five in a row to tie the game at 69-69 with 25.5 seconds to play before Michigan State called a timeout to set up the final possession.

Izzo said the play was designed to go to Gabe Brown, but quickly the play fell apart as Hoggard got the ball to Max Christie but the freshman was stuck in the corner with no shot. He got it back to a cutting Hoggard, who got in the lane and found Hauser for the contested layup that went in with 0.1 on the clock.

Michigan State forward Joey Hauser scores the game winning basket with seconds remaining in the second half.

Michigan State’s players then mobbed Hauser on the court, elated for a teammate who has struggled at times this season and taken plenty of heat from those outside the program.

“I just keep doing my thing, working hard,” Hauser said. “I’m not worried about what people are saying. I know my teammates have got my back. That why I was so happy to be in that moment. There have been some struggles shooting the ball, but I feel like I’m still doing things to help this team win.

“But it was a really awesome moment for me and I’m glad to have awesome teammates.”

Box Score: Spartans 71, Golden Gophers 69

The play helped Michigan State overcome 12 offensive rebounds for Minnesota, which led to 17 second-chance points.

Christie scored 16 to lead Michigan State (14-2, 5-0 Big Ten) while Gabe Brown scored 13 and Tyson Walker added 10 points. Hauser finished with eight points and five rebounds while Hoggard handed out six assists.

“It was one of those weird special moments in a game where you really didn't play that good,” Izzo said of the celebration on the court and in the locker room, “and yet, you won and (the players) act like we just won the national championship. It wasn't the game I think as much as the situation, and that was pretty cool.”

Eric Curry scored 19 for Minnesota (10-4, 1-4) while EJ Stephens scored 18, Payton Willis had 15 and Jamison Battle added 13 for the Golden Gophers.

Michigan State started quickly, jumping out to a 7-2 lead, but Minnesota also proved in the opening minutes that it would not go out easily. The Golden Gophers scored five quick points then took a 10-9 lead on a jumper from Luke Loewe seven minutes into the game.

Michigan State holds steady in Associated Press Top 25 men's college basketball poll

But the Spartans responded with a 14-3 run that looked like it would blow the game open. However, a late surge by the Gophers led to an ugly close to the half for the Spartans.

After taking a 32-24 lead on a Christie 3-pointer and a Brown layup with 2:38 to play in the half, the Spartans were held without a basket the rest of the way, getting only one shot off, a missed layup by Walker. Minnesota took advantage and cut the Michigan State lead to 34-31 with a triple at the buzzer from Payton Willis.

It was back forth as both teams came out of the halftime locker room hitting shots. Michigan State was able to take the first advantage when it went ahead, 46-40, after Brown hit a pair of free throws on a flagrant foul on Loewe and a layup from Walker.

Minnesota responded with five in a row, but a Walker jumper in the lane and then a 3-pointer from Walker extended the Spartans’ lead to 51-45 with 13:09 to play. The Gophers bounced back again, scoring the next seven points to take a 52-51 lead, their first since the held the 10-9 lead early in the first half.

“The fight I thought our guys had to get it to that point (to be tied at the end of the game),” Minnesota coach Ben Johnson said. “There were a couple of times in the game we could have easily folded. It’s a tough place to play but we didn’t give in to the crowd, didn’t give into the momentum and it gave us a chance.”

After each team split free throws, the Spartans got a pair of free throws from Brown and a triple from Malik Hall to take a 57-53 lead with 8:33 to play. Willis answered with a layup but Michigan State got back-to-back jumpers from Hall and Christie to push the advantage to 61-55.

The teams traded buckets before a Battle 3-pointer pulled Minnesota within three, and after an offensive foul on Brown, Minnesota got within a point. But Hoggard hit a jumper followed by another from Christie to take a 69-64 lead.

Three straight free throws for the Gophers trimmed it to 69-67 before Hoggard missed a layup and Hall missed the front end of a one-and-one with 44.9 seconds to play. Stephens then hit a pair of free throws to set up Michigan State’s winning possession.

“My mindset was just making a play, honestly,” Hoggard said. “When Max attacked and I cut ... I kind of just knew at that time it was for (Hauser) to win the game. I dumped it off and put it in his hands and just trusted he would win the game for us.”

Michigan State now prepares to host Northwestern on Saturday before hitting the road next week at Wisconsin.

“I’m trying to do a better job, but we are 14-2,” Izzo said. “There’s been better teams than us that lost the worse teams, if you go around the country right now. It doesn't make me feel better, it just makes me put things in perspective, and I’ve got to do a better job in some areas.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau