One. Gophers Looked Stunned.
This is a Golden Gopher team that was aggressively outplayed early and their reaction to getting down double figures resembled a confused young team. Often Minnesota’s response to a Michigan State basket was a long jumper ten seconds into the shot clock instead of a grinding possession to make their opponents work.
On the defensive end the Spartans hit the Gophers in the mouth on screens and Minnesota’s reaction wasn’t to battle, it was a slow recovery that eventually became out of position defenders. When the game became tough the Gophers did not react and compete. They became frustrated and undisciplined. This needs to be a game that Minnesota learns from, and does rattle them going forward.
Two. Miles Bridges was the Momentum.
When the Spartans made a close game an eight score lead it was Miles Bridges coming at Minnesota from every angle. Brides is really a small forward but this MSU team results in him playing the four which he of course is strong enough to play. Gopher fans worried about this match-up as it was Bridges versus Jordan Murphy.
Jordan has taken a lot of positive steps defensively but tonight was a step back. Bridges was too long, too skilled, and too active for Murphy. Bridges had the 16 in the first half and basically closed it down from there. Murphy had six points and four rebounds which is way below his averages.
Three. Not Enough Up Front.
For the second straight time the Gophers just didn’t get enough front court production from their bigs to win the game. Reggie Lynch got several good touches but he missed three of his four shots, turned the ball over three times, and fouled out again in limited minutes.
Eric Curry missed four lay-ups, continually missed jumpers, and scored his seven points on 2 of 9 shooting. We described the Murphy versus Bridges match-up already but that went MSU’s way as well. Bakary Konate gave Minnesota nothing. The entire group had good opportunities but combined to shoot 6 of 21 and missed ten lay-ups total. The group did a very good job limiting the good touches and shots from Nick Ward but they couldn’t complete plays themselves.
Michigan State dominated the glass 42-29.
The common theme for officials over my 14 years of coverage is Minnesota fans boo a call, I tell fans they are wrong, they boo me. Not this year. The past five games has been some of the most inconsistent, frustrating officiating I’ve ever seen. One half of battles, another half of two touch fouls a possession. No consistency.
Has the officiating went against Minnesota usually? No, not commonly, it’s just bad. I would saw that Michigan State and Purdue played with an unfair contact edge in the first two games and Tom Izzo worked his way into some calls tonight, but it’s poor both ways. It makes watching basketball games very hard and it’s not just Minnesota, it’s all over.
Also, if Ted Valentine sprained an ankle it wouldn’t be the worst thing. He’s unbearable in all ways.
Five. McBrayer and Mason turn things around?
Both McBrayer and Mason came into this game struggling from the field. Maybe, just maybe this ugly game will have a positive.
Dupree scored 11 of the team’s first 17 points. McBrayer had zero assists which is a definite concern (he would have had a couple if the bigs completed plays) but he made five of ten shots for double figure numbers.
For Nate Mason most of the game was ugly. He missed nine of his first 11 shots which added to a string of 6 of 31 shooting since the Purdue win. With about six minutes to go when the game was seemingly meaningless Nate Mason may have lifted himself out of a slump.
Mason scored an And1 on an attack, scored another attack, made a three off a ball screen, then hit a pull-up. Mason finished the game making his last four shots, scored a team high 14 points, and potentially earned himself some needed confidence.