Fresh off a tough loss to Indiana, Michigan State basketball looked to get back on track at Minnesota. The Spartans were able to do just that.
Michigan State basketball is now in a tie with Illinois for first place in the Big Ten. With their win over Minnesota, the Spartans improved to 15-5 on the season and 7-2 in conference play. Most importantly, Michigan State got its second road win in Big Ten play.
Let’s take a look at the three takeaways for Michigan State in their double-digit victory over Minnesota.
1. The Spartans defense had an outstanding 1st half.
Michigan State adjusted part of its usual starting lineup including Marcus Bingham Jr. and Aaron Henry to favor Rocket Watts and Malik Hall. Defensively, it paid dividends as the Spartans held the Gophers to only 22 points in the first half on below-28% shooting from the floor. The Spartans had more rebounds, steals, and blocks than the Gophers in the first half.
Michigan State’s gameplan was to dare Minnesota to shot three’s in the first half and it worked. The Gophers shot 3-for-18 beyond the arc in the first half.
The Spartans had 16 defensive rebounds in comparison to the Gophers’ nine entered the break and Tom Izzo substituted early and often to make sure he had fresh big men in the game. Michigan State set the tone early defensively and it carried into the second half.
2. Tillman stepped up on both ends of the floor.
Xavier Tillman posted 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in leading Michigan State to victory in this contest. He also had two blocks whiling committing two turnovers. He was a presence in the paint even though he missed some early shots and his defense set the tone early as well.
Even though Daniel Oturu had 19 points, Tillman didn’t allow Oturu to dominate the game. Oturu scored 30 and 26 points respectively in recent home wins against Penn State and Michigan, respectively. Tillman made him guard him in the post and helped get him in foul trouble (four fouls midway through the second half).
Tillman may not have looked like a dominant big man against the Gophers but he did all the little things to help the Spartans get a much-needed road victory in the Big Ten. He has been playing well of late and he is only continuing to get better especially on the offensive end.
1. Michigan State played like a team on a mission.
The Spartans were focused, alert, and determined to stick to their gameplan in this one. Cassius Winston, as the leader of the team, only committed one turnover and pushed the offense to run like a well-oiled machine. Henry and Watts both played very efficiently on offense and defense and it help propelled the Spartans to their victory.
Beating Minnesota by 18 points on their home court is not easy. Winston had 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists. When the Spartans’ All-American point guard plays as he did against the Gophers, it is very difficult to beat them.
The Spartans had six players score seven or more points. On paper, that doesn’t seem like much. However, on the road in a very competitive Big Ten, having multiple players being able to score is very important. Michigan State will now look to reclaim sole possession of first place as they host Northwestern next.