Dec. 28, 2020: The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the Spartans of Michigan State 81-56, Monday night.
Following the Gophers’ Christmas Day upset of No. 4 Iowa, they were rewarded with their first AP Poll ranking in over three years. They entered this matchup ranked No. 21 in all of the land. Michigan State entered this matchup 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Minnesota is ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in three years at No. 22!!
— GopherHole.com (@GopherHole) December 28, 2020
Richard Pitino’s Gophers team came ready to prove their No. 21 ranking, and they truly dominated from the tipoff. Michigan State struggled, shooting only 15.8% from the field in the first half. Minnesota took advantage shooting 40% as a team. Liam Robbins made his presence felt in the first half with 12 points 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Minnesota led 36-16 heading into the locker room.
The second half was Marcus Carr’s time to shine. The future Big Ten player of the year scored 11 in the second half, bringing his game total to 19 points. The Gophers weren’t as dominant, only outscoring Michigan State 45-40, but they certainly closed the game out on a high note. Robbins and Carr combined to score 37 of Minnesota’s 81 points.
What we learned:
Christmas Day was no fluke, this Gophers team is ELITE. Liam Robbins is an All-Big Ten player, Marcus Carr could be an All-American, and the Gophers could make it to the Sweet 16. Two weeks ago those three statements would be looked at as outrageous. They still might be a little optimistic, but they’re possible.
Every player on this Minnesota team knows their role. Both Gach and Gabe Kalscheur have both been struggling offensively, but they both have been great defensively. Brandon Johnson has really started to look comfortable as a fifth starter. Jamaal Mashburn Jr has become a great spark-plug off the bench. I could go on-and-on, but you get the point, nobody wants to be a superstar and everyone knows what they need to do. The great New England Patriots dynasty was built on three simple words “Do your job.” Richard Pitino has his team doing just that over the last three games.
What is next:
The Gophers are set to travel to Madison, Wisconsin for a New Year’s Eve showdown with the Badgers. A nine-game stretch that, which featured nine surefire tournament teams and looked like quite the task, has now quickly looked a lot better for Minnesota. After going 3-1 to begin that stretch, the Gophers’ long-term hopes in the Big Ten is looking very bright.
With Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa, and Michigan (x2) over the next five games, if the Gophers can just get two of those five they seriously have a chance to compete for a Big Ten championship. The Big Ten is looking very competitive top to bottom, and the Gophers are right in the middle of their toughest stretch. With two meetings with Nebraska and two with Maryland on the horizon, anything can really happen. Gophers’ hoops is looking very very bright.