Everything came apart quickly for Michigan State on Thursday night.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Spartans led by six with 34 seconds to play against Minnesota. But 32 seconds later, the game was tied and Minnesota’s Carlos Morris was at the free-throw line with a chance to steal a win for the Gophers.
He missed, just delaying the eventual overtime loss for the Spartans, as they fell 96-90 to the Gophers.
”It’s tough, but we kinda got what we deserved,” Denzel Valentine said.
Valentine, who finished with a game-high 27 points, followed that up by saying the Spartans lacked the energy they had been playing with over the four-game winning streak.
Coach Tom Izzo expressed similar sentiments, calling it a “sickening loss.”
”The better team won, I give them credit,” Izzo said. “They played hard, they stuck around and we had our chances. We got it up to seven or eight a couple times.”
But the lead dissolved late after a pair of Travis Trice 3-pointers looked like they would be the difference and Michigan State would hold off the Gophers. But Morris hit a high-arching 3 with 28 seconds left and followed it up with the game-tying with 3 with 2.2 seconds left, on which he was fouled by Gavin Schilling.
“We were switching all five positions and we just didn’t want to get a 3,” Schilling said. “We wanted a guy to get the basket for a two. I closed out kinda late and didn’t try to foul him, but they called it.”
Still, the Spartans felt fortunate to head to overtime with Morris missing the free throw.
“Our thing was defend without fouling,” Trice said. “I think we are just lucky he didn’t hit the free throw to end it really. We just gotta get smarter and get better in the late-game situations like that. We can’t keep losing that way.”
The game went to the extra frame, where the teams combined for 30 points, but just five field goals. Minnesota hit 14 of 20 free throws, while Michigan State hit 5 of 9, but did not score from the field until Valentine hit a 3 with 38.2 seconds left in the overtime.
The Spartans led most of the way, but in what has become all too common at Breslin Center, found themselves in a tight game in the final minutes.
The Spartans trailed 67-64 with 3:54 remaining, but that changed when Trice hit a step back 3-pointer late in the shot clock to tie it 67-67 with 2:26 to go.
Another Trice 3 put MSU ahead 70-69 after a Joey King lay in put Minnesota ahead 69-67. Then Breslin Center exploded as Branden Dawson stripped Gophers point guard Nate Mason, got the ball on a feed from Trice and threw down a huge dunk to give MSU a 72-69 lead.
Maurice Walker stepped to the line and missed the front end of a one-and-one, with Dawson pulling down the rebound. Trice stepped to the line, hitting the front end, but missed the back end. Dawson went hard for rebound, though, and it deflected out of Walker’s fingertips, giving the ball back to MSU with a 73-69 lead.
This time, Trice hit both free throws to put MSU ahead 75-69, but Morris hit a 3 over Dawson to pull Minnesota within 75-72.
Valentine hit a pair of free throws, but Dawson fouled Minnesota’s Joey King on a 3-point attempt and the junior hit all three to pull Minnesota to 77-75.
With 12.8 seconds left, Valentine missed his first free throw and made his second to put Michigan State ahead 78-75.
But Morris hit the game-tying 3 to send the game on to overtime, as Izzo opted not to foul late.
”With 13 seconds left, I didn’t want to foul with that much time left,” he said. “With the way we were shooting free throws, I didn’t want to go to that even or.
”It’s a choice I made and it’s a choice I’ll live with.”
The loss dropped Michigan State to 2-2 in overtime at home, as it again struggled to close out a game.
“It is tough because we have been struggling finishing games all year,” Schilling said. “We didn’t finish this one.”
Michigan State will have to regroup quickly, with a trip to Wisconsin coming Sunday.
”We just gotta move on and get ready for Wisconsin,” Valentine said.