While their overtime loss to Minnesota is unlikely to hurt Michigan State when it comes to reaching the NCAA tournament, the defeat is one that can impact the Spartans’ seeding. And what made matter worse for Michigan State is that the loss featured some bad decisions late in regulation.
Twice in the final 15 seconds of regulation Michigan State fouled a three-point shooter, the second of which nearly cost them the game in regulation. The first occurred when Branden Dawson fouled Joey King, who hit all three free throws to pull the Golden Gophers to within two (77-75).
The second instance of Michigan State fouling a three-point shooter occurred with 2.2 seconds remaining, as Gavin Schilling failed to close out under control on Minnesota’s Carlos Morris. Morris hit the shot but missed the free throw, meaning that Michigan State was headed to overtime despite leading by as much as six points in the game’s final minute.
In the video above, Schilling got himself in trouble by over-helping on King, who was being guarded by Dawson. If King were to attempt to turn the corner on Dawson with Minnesota down three, that would be fine as far as Michigan State was concerned. A two wasn’t going to beat them there, and it was more likely that King would have needed to hoist up a challenged three-pointer with Dawson on his right shoulder.
Instead King was able to kick the ball out, and the Michigan State big man was in a position where he had to quickly move to challenge the shot. Following the game Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo noted that there was a discussion over whether or not to give the foul (a non-shooting foul of course), which he elected not to do.
“Yes, there was. With 13 seconds left, I didn’t want to foul with that much time left,” Izzo said after the game. “With the way we were shooting free throws I didn’t want to go to that even or. It’s a choice I made and it’s a choice I’ll live with.”
But Michigan State had trouble in other areas that allowed Minnesota to hang around in the eyes of the head coach.
“If guys would do their damn job and do what their supposed to do we wouldn’t be in that position,” Izzo continued. “It was just another game that we had foolish turnovers. We had a ton of missed free throws by some of our best free throw shooters, and we had a guy or two that just didn’t come to play.”
Minnesota shot 51.8% from the field (57.1% on two-pointers) and outscored Michigan State 29-19 from the foul line. That ended a streak of seven games in which Michigan State held a team below 45 percent shooting from the field, going back to their two-point loss at Nebraska January 24. Denzel Valentine scored a career-high 27 points and Travis Trice added 21 off the bench, but this isn’t a team that can get away with players having off nights.
Michigan State’s path to a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament gets a little tougher as a result of Thursday’s loss. What makes it worse for the Spartans is that the situation was an avoidable one, as a couple defensive lapses pushed a game into overtime that should have been closed out in regulation.
Video credit: Big Ten Network