Gophers fall to No. 10 Michigan State at the buzzer 71-69

Jan. 12, 2021: After competing with No. 10 Michigan State for 40 minutes on the road, the Gophers came up short in the most devastating way possible, a buzzer beating loss 71-69.

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Full Game Recap:

  • First Half: It was a bit of a slow start for both sides offensively, but the Gophers proved they belonged in one of the toughest places to play in the Big Ten. It was a team effort, with four of the five starters scoring early, but Jamison Battle had yet to attempt a shot almost nine minutes into the game. Minnesota trailed 14-10 heading into the under 12-minute timout. Battle and Payton Willis were never able to get going offensively in the first half, but Eric Curry led the team with six points early after scoring a career-high 18 against Michigan State in December. The slow start, resulted in a 27-17 deficit for the Maroon & Gold with about five minutes to go in the half. The Gophers closed the half 14-7, playing terrific basketball. Thanks to a team-high 10 points from E.J. Stephens Michigan State led by only three, 34-31 heading into the break.

  • Second Half: The second half started, the same way the first half ended. Eric Curry quickly jumped out to a game-high 13 points and the Gophers trailed 42-40 heading into the first media timeout of the half. The Gophers continued to fight, but Michigan State wouldn’t back down making for a terrific start to the second half. Sparty led 51-45 with 13:08 to go. They continued to put up a fight. Every single shot that Michigan State had, Minnesota ate and threw one back at them. Curry continued to carry the Maroon & Gold offensively with a career-high 19 points. Unfortunately, Curry left the floor getting carried by two coaches, due to what looked like an ankle injury. It looked like overtime was imminent, but a last second shot from the Spartans, sent the Gophers home with a loss 71-69.

Instant Reaction & Takeaways:

This team might not play in the NCAA Tournament, but they will be “in” every single game they play in. They will compete and play much harder than the level of talent on their roster. Ben Johnson has built a culture of competing, and you can already feel it through the T.V. A third straight loss is certainly frustrating, but this team competed from the tip-off to the final buzzer, in what was most of the players’ first time playing the the Breslin Center, which is one of the toughest environments in the Big Ten. You couldn’t always say that in the past with some Gophers teams, that often looked to be sleepwalking in the middle of the Big Ten conference schedule.

If Eric Curry‘s injury is serious, it could be fatal for this team. Frontcourt depth was already a massive weakness for this team, and without Curry, this team could begin to seriously struggle in the Big Ten. After possibly his best game in a Gophers uniform makes it even worse, but hopefully it is just a rolled ankle. As for the Gophers other starters, Willis, Battle and Stephens did about all they could, but still came up short proving how slim the margin for error is with this team. Battle specifically did not have his best offensive performance of the season, but I was seriously impressed with his defense and decision making down the stretch, which was great to see.

What is Next?:

The Gophers will be back at it Sunday against Iowa, but fortunately, it will be back at Williams Arena. I have never been a fan of “moral victories”, but I think this was one for this Gophers program. This team was never supposed to compete for a tournament appearance this season, but they just went on the road and gave No. 10 Michigan State all they could have. This was a massive statement to the rest of the conference that Ben Johnson is here and he is here to stay.

The college basketball season has a lot of ups and downs, and this shouldn’t be as much of a down as some thing. If you said preseason that this team would start 10-4 and stick with No. 10 Michigan State for 40 minutes, I think any right-minded fan would be happy with that.

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