Spartans Get Crucial Overtime B1G Road Win 75-74
The Michigan State Spartans came into tonight’s opening Big Ten tilt on the road at the Barn in Minnesota. While the Spartans were facing a 12-1 Gophers squad and were the underdogs according to Vegas, no one told them. Down 13 at the half the never quit Spartans came roaring back to win in over time 75-74.
The Spartans were lead again by freshman big man Nick Ward. The Gophers philosophy was to deny Ward the ball and dare anyone else to beat them. When he got the ball they hacked him and despite shooting an abysmal 4/13 from the charity stripe, the Spartans young pup played like an old dawg scoring 22 points, adding 10 rebounds and playing an astonishing 33 minutes. Exhausted from easily his best performance of his young career on both ends of the court.
MSU head coach Izzo said of the win that, “We found a way to win a game with some toughness. And this team hasn’t done that all year.” Over joyed he simply said, “Until the plane wheels touch the ground I'm gonna enjoy the win. Hopefully we rock the plane."
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino saw his Gophers lose for just the second time all year as their record fell to 12-2. He said of Nick Ward’s performance that, “"He's lost weight, gotten himself into shape. He's been terrific.”
For the game MSU shot 45% to the Gophers 38%, but again the Spartans almost let one get away from the line. MSU was 10/22 from the charity stripe shooting 46%. MSU lost the battle of the boards 46-39 and in a good losing note; they lost the turnover lead having only 12 compared to Minnesota’s 15.
Alvin Ellis III stepped up with a big night. Just a few hours before the game Ellis Tweeted, “Be great today,” and he lived up to it. The Spartan senior had 20 points and six rebounds including the game winning points from the charity stripe in overtime. He was the only other Spartan scorer in double digits.
Ellis who has struggled at times over his career at MSU, but has stayed the course touched his coach’s heart with his play. Izzo said afterward that, “I am proud of him.”
Fellow senior Eron Harris struggled for only five points and fellow shooter Matt McQuaid had only two. Two Spartans fouled out of the game before overtime in Cassius Winston and Kenny Goins. This was the first time in the last three years that MSU won their opening Big Ten game. You have to go back to December 31, 2013 to find the last time they won their Big Ten opener and that was over Penn State.
With the win the Spartans improve to 9-5 on the year. They tip off next on Friday night at 6PM at the Breslin Center hosting Northwestern. You can see that game on BTN.