Michigan State basketball improves in Big Ten play, gets home victory against Minnesota

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Aleesa Luecker

EAST LANSING – Malik Hall had his second career double-double and Tyson Walker scored ten straight points for Michigan State in their 76-66 victory over Minnesota on Thursday evening. The win propels the Spartans to 3-4 in Big Ten play and puts them on par with the Golden Gophers.

Walker led MSU with 21 points and Malik Hall was close behind him with 16 points along with 12 rebounds and four assists, scoring his 1,000th career point in the process. 

Following the game, head coach Tom Izzo praised his veteran forward.

“Hurray for Malik Hall,” Izzo said. “Gets his thousandth point on maybe one of the better dunks I’ve seen in our building, gets a double-double, plays good defense.”

Late in the game, it was Tyson Walker’s string of ten consecutive points for Michigan State was instrumental in the victory. Minnesota forward Pharrel Payne tied the game at 62 with 5:38 to go before both teams went scoreless for two minutes and one second. After the drought, Walker began his personal 10-2 run and Payne’s jumper ended up being the Gophers’ final made field goal of the game. 

Looking at the stat sheet, Michigan State could have won this game by a lot more. Minnesota had 19 turnovers to MSU’s five, and the Spartans made eight more field goals than the Golden Gophers. 

Four of Minnesota’s starters had three turnovers or more, while no Michigan State player turned it over more than once. MSU had a team assist-to-turnover ratio of four-to-one and the Gopher’s ratio was below one. 

The Spartans dominated the paint, outsourcing Minnesota 44-12 in that regard. That is a bit of a surprise since Minnesota was forced to put out a bigger starting lineup than usual in the absence of NCAA assist leader guard Elijah Hawkins.

MSU got out in transition more, getting 17 points on fast breaks. Minnesota had two. 

Izzo put his thoughts on the result simply.

“We won a game,” Izzo said. “That’s what you’ve got to do at this time of year.”

He cited the close score to be because of the Spartans missing open threes and free throws. Michigan State shot just 3-for-12 from beyond the arc and shot just 65.2% from the charity stripe.

Luckily for MSU, Minnesota’s game plan was complicated by foul trouble. Sophomore guard Cam Christie, brother of former MSU player and current Los Angeles Laker Max Christie, fouled out of the game with just over eight minutes left to play after only playing 16 minutes. 

Minnesota forward Dawson Garcia led both teams with 22 points and added nine rebounds of his own. The longtime MSU head coach called Garcia, “a hell of a player” postgame.

Mike Mitchell Jr. was the only other Golden Gopher to reach double digits, scoring fourteen and recording five assists. 

For the Spartans, A.J. Hoggard was another major factor for the Spartans. The senior guard had a modest eight points, but led the game with seven assists to just one turnover and two steals. 

In the steal department, Walker matched Minnesota’s entire steal total with three of his own. Six Michigan State players recorded a steal tonight. 

Tom Izzo has had his way with Minnesota in East Lansing. The win moves Michigan State to 19-1 at home against Minnesota since the beginning of the title-winning 1999-2000 season.

Tom Izzo’s squad now has two road games up next on their schedule. They have Maryland on Sunday and No. 11 Wisconsin next Friday before Michigan comes to East Lansing on January 30.

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