MSU lays the Wood on Minnesota
Brandon Wood took a gamble.
The player who might have been most maligned for his defense struggles took a gamble. Down four with less than five minutes left, he broke on a pass from Minnesota’s Julian Welch.
The gamble paid off, Wood knocked it away on the run and was off to the races, slamming the ball through the hoop with two hands. That was just the start.
The crowed started to get back into the game as it stood at 58-52 with less than three minutes to go. Wood curled around a screen, took the pass from Keith Appling. Dribble. Step. Jump. Boom. Wood hit the floater over the Gophers center Eliott Eliason.
Next possession, Draymond Green stole a pass and looked up court. He hit a streaking Wood in stride. Dribble. Step. Jump. Boom. Wood hit the contested layup in front of Minnesota’s Julian Welch.
58-56. It got quiet inside Williams Arena.
Led by Wood, the Spartans defense allowed just two Minnesota field goals and forced eight turnovers in the final 10:25. Wood had eight of his 13 points in that time span, and a big offensive rebound which led to two Derrick Nix free throws.
Wood, who has taken on a sixth man role and embraced it, had his highest point total since Dec. 28 against Indiana.
“Coach is always on him about his intensity,” forward Green said. “Coach really challenged Brandon, and he definitely responded. He challenged him on the bench. He challenged him at halftime. He challenged him in the first half. He challenged him in the second half.”
Green led the MSU offensive charge with 17 points, including three early 3-pointers. The Spartans as a team hit 5 of 16 3-point attempts in the first half. But more impressively, they only turned the ball over four times before halftime. Or even MORE impressively, they only turned the ball over ONCE in the second half for a season-low five turnovers.
Big credit goes to Appling returned to form at the point, with no turnovers, three steals and five assists. He also had 13 points, including six free throws to give the Spartans the lead seal the game late.
Spartans outrebounded. Yes, outrebounded
MSU outrebounds its opponents by an average of more than nine per game, but against Minnesota, the Spartans were outrebounded by nine. No Spartan tallied more than five (Green, Payne) and the team had just 22, while Minnesota had 31.
Nix takes a charge
Something I considered impossible, Nix drew an offensive foul. The 270-pound junior stepped in and took a charge from Minnesota’s Andre Ingram.
It would seem improbable ANYONE could knock down the rather large MSU center, but the refs on Wednesday decided it was so.
After posting a career-high against XX, Austin Thornton had just two points against Minnesota. He hit two free throws in the final seconds of the game, after missing all five attempts from the field, including four 3-point attempts.