Spartans pull away from Minnesota in second half
East Lansing, MI (Sports Network) - Gary Harris played with a bad back. Keith Appling hurt his shoulder. Despite all of the ailments, Michigan State looked plenty healthy in the second half.
Harris scored 15 points, Appling added 14 and the 12th-ranked Spartans downed No. 18 Minnesota, 61-50, behind a big 43-point second half.
Adreian Payne chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds for the Spartans (19-4, 8-2 Big Ten), who have won eight of nine since a New Year's Eve loss to these Golden Gophers in Minneapolis.
"I felt like we just beat a very good basketball team. I don't think they played great and I don't think we played great," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "I am proud that we found a way to win and grinded it out."
Andre Hollins led Minnesota (17-6, 5-5) with 11 points and Trevor Mbakwe added nine points and 14 points in the loss. The Golden Gophers saw a two-game winning streak fall by the wayside.
The Spartans used a wave of long-range shots to open a double-digit lead nearly halfway through the second half. Harris, Appling and Denzel Valentine connected on 3-pointers for a 39-29 advantage then Braden Dawson stole an ill- advised pass and coasted in for the slam to cap an 11-0 burst.
Minnesota slowly worked its way back within striking distance, cutting the deficit to 47-41 after Hollins drained 1-of-2 free throws with a little over four minutes to go. The dynamic guard then made a 3-pointer and 1-of-2 free throws to reduce the deficit to 49-45 with just under three minutes to go, but that is as far as Minnesota could climb.
Michigan State received an easy layup from Appling and two free throws by Payne for a 53-45 margin, and a Golden Gopher turnover led to the start of a conventional three-point play by Harris for a 56-45 lead.
The Spartans held on from there for their eighth conference victory, as Appling exited late after an apparent shoulder injury.
"They're the best at getting the ball inside and getting the ball to the basket," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said about Michigan State. "We did a pretty good job of defending it in the first half, but in the second half we just collapsed."
A shoulder-to-shoulder offensive struggle marked the opening 20 minutes. A halfcourt affair left few easy looks and plenty of missed shots, as both teams failed to break 40 percent shooting.
Michigan State scored seven of the game's first nine points and pushed out to a 13-6 margin on Harris' trey nearly 10 minutes in. The Golden Gophers attempted just nine shots during that stretch, as the Spartans controlled the game's pace.
Minnesota started to lock down on the defensive end and find seams on its possessions, rattling off eight straight with Mbakwe's free throw giving the visitors their first lead at 14-13 with just over 3 1/2 minutes to go.
Appling and Joe Coleman exchanged 3-pointers just before the horn, leaving the Gophers in front, 20-18. Michigan State shot 24 percent from the floor, including 2-of-16 from inside the arch.
Minnesota dropped to 3-4 in true road games ... Michigan State improved to 14-0 at the Breslin Center this season ... The Spartans have won 13 of the last 15 meetings with Minnesota and 14 in a row at home ... Michigan State didn't commit a first-half turnover and finished with only five for the game.
02/06 23:54:06 ET