Andre Hollins finished 22 points and six assists and Trevor Mbakwe outplayed Michigan State’s massive front line to the tune of 11 points and 12 boards as No. 9 Minnesota knocked off No. 18 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
The Gophers trailed 59-54 with nine minutes left in the game, but used a 22-4 run down the stretch to secure the win.
This win was a statement for Minnesota, who had their doubters heading into the start of conference play. As good as Minnesota has looked, their resume wasn’t exactly overwhelming coming in. The wins over Stanford, Memphis and Florida State don’t look as impressive as they did at the time, and beating South Dakota State by 24 is dulled when you remember that the Jackrabbits were without Nate Wolters.
The Gophers have looked great in non-conference play in recent years only to crumble once they enter Big Ten play. That doesn’t appear to be the case this year, as Minnesota not only outlasted the Spartans, but closed them out with the kind of surge that Michael Phelps would have been proud of. Hollins is the truth, Rodney Williams has finally learned how to be more than just an athlete and Mbakwe finally looks like he’s regaining his explosiveness.
That said, Michigan State looked good for the first 31 minutes of this game. Throw in that this game was played in the Barn — which, when Minnesota is good, is one of the tougher places to get a win in the Big Ten — and it’s tough to really put too much stock into this performance beyond the fact that Minnesota was capable of defending their home court against a quality conference foe.
That’s a good sign for the Gophers, even if it’s not yet time to pencil them into the Final Four.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.