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February 24, 2024

Walker, Hall Lead Michigan State Past Minnesota

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Jan 19, 2024

Michigan State leaned on strong performances from Tyson Walker and Malik Hall to pull away late and defeat Minnesota 76-66 on Thursday night. The Spartans improved to 12-6 (4-3 Big Ten) while the Golden Gophers dropped to 7-9 (1-5).

Walker Steps Up in Crunch Time

Tyson Walker scored 9 of his 21 points in the final five minutes to help the Spartans hold off Minnesota’s comeback attempt. The junior guard knocked down multiple clutch shots with the game in the balance, showing leadership for Michigan State down the stretch.

“Tyson’s two pull-ups were big-time shots,” coach Tom Izzo said. “That’s what you’ve got to have to win games like this.”

Walker finished an efficient 7-of-12 shooting while also contributing 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. His ability to create his own shot and connect from all three levels proved vital.

Hall Joins 1,000-Point Club

Malik Hall continued his strong senior season by becoming the 49th player in program history to score 1,000 career points. He tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks while battling through a rolled ankle suffered last game.

“It was definitely hurting but I didn’t want to sit this game out,” Hall said. “Getting to 1,000 points has been a goal of mine.”

Hall scored his milestone basket on a putback layup in the second half. The versatile forward is a key cog for this Spartans team with his two-way impact and leadership.

“Malik has turned himself into a really good basketball player because of his work ethic,” Izzo remarked.

Season PPG RPG APG
2021-22 8.9 4.6 1.1
2022-23 14.3 7.5 2.4

Slow Start Dooms Gophers

Minnesota struggled out of the gates, falling behind 17-8 early. The Gophers shot just 3-of-9 over the first 10 minutes, lacking rhythm on offense. Turnovers also plagued them, finishing with 12 giveaways leading to 15 Michigan State points.

Jamison Battle led Minnesota with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Dawson Garcia added 13 points. But outside shooting woes (6-of-23 from three) and inability to finish at the rim proved costly. The Gophers closed to within four in the final minute before clutch Spartans free throws iced the win.

“We were just a step slow all night,” said coach Ben Johnson. “Our defense has to travel better than that.”

Second Half Surge

Michigan State trailed at halftime 33-32 but used an 11-3 run midway through the second half to take control. Minnesota hung around but timely shot-making from Walker allowed the Spartans to keep the Gophers at arm’s length.

“He was awesome late,” Hall said about Walker’s crunch time scoring. “He really stepped up hitting tough shots with the game on the line.”

Jaden Akins pitched in 10 points for the Spartans while providing stout perimeter defense. Michigan State held Minnesota to 39% shooting and outrebounded them 38-30 in a gritty performance.

“There’s a lot of things we can do better but I’m proud we closed the game out,” said Akins. The sophomore continues rounding into form after returning from a foot injury.

Izzo Critical Despite Win

Tom Izzo captured his 698th career victory but was not pleased with his team’s effort after the uneven performance.

“That was not the prettiest win,” Izzo said. “We made some big plays but our defense has to get better.”

The demanding coach called out defensive lapses and lack of communication in the second half allowing Minnesota’s comeback bid. He expects better intensity moving forward, especially at home in the Breslin Center.

When asked why the team started slow out of halftime, Izzo pointed to the technical foul assessed to him late in the first half.

“I think I got them stirred up a little bit at halftime,” Izzo said about his animated speech. “Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten that T.”

Season Wins National Titles Final Fours
1995-2024 698 2 8

The legendary leader ranks among college basketball’s top 10 in all-time wins. He’ll aim for career victory No. 699 against Ohio State on Sunday.

What This Means

The Spartans passed a tricky test against Minnesota to earn their first back-to-back conference wins this season. Performing under pressure without their head coach for the final 10 minutes of the first half exemplified growth.

Home victories also prove vital for Michigan State’s NCAA Tournament hopes as they try racking up quality wins. The next stretch vs. Ohio State, at Illinois, and vs. Iowa offers significant opportunities to boost their resume.

For Minnesota, a 12th straight loss at the Breslin Center showed they still have ground to make up in the Big Ten. Their upcoming schedule doesn’t get easier facing Wisconsin and Purdue next week. Shooting woes and defensive lapses must get cleaned up quickly to turn around their season.

In the end, Michigan State’s balance and timely shot-making prevailed in this Big Ten tussle. Izzo’s squad continues showing promise amid another classic conference grind.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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