Mbakwe: MSU Wants ‘Revenge’ vs. U
Michigan State, 7-2 in Big Ten games and chasing a conference title, has lost only to the Gophers and national power Indiana. In the conference opener for both teams on December 31, the Gophers defeated the Spartans 76-63, winning for the first time since 2006 against MSU in Williams Arena.
Wednesday night MSU, 17-3 against Minnesota in the last 20 games, gets a second chance. “I know they want their revenge. …It’s going to be a dog fight,” said Gophers senior center Trevor Mbakwe.
Coach Tom Izzo’s MSU program has built its reputation on toughness but in the game in Minneapolis the Gophers matched the Spartans’ aggression, including in rebounding where the home team had a 39-32 advantage. But the Gophers, 5-4 in conference games, struggled to match the physical play of Iowa yesterday, needing a three-point game winner from junior guard Austin Hollins in the last minute to win, 62-59.
After the game at Williams Arena the Gophers described Iowa, 3-6, as a “scrappy” team, and sophomore center Elliott Eliason acknowledged the Spartans will be more physical than the Hawkeyes. “They’re definitely going to be out to get us back. The Breslin Center is a very tough place to play.”
The Gophers, who have never won at the Breslin Center under coach Tubby Smith, were often outhustled by Iowa yesterday including in pursuit of loose balls. “You gotta beat’em to the floor,” Eliason said. “That’s the whole thing. Usually the first guy to the floor is going to get the ball.”
“They’re a very physical team (Iowa),” said junior Gophers guard Maverick Ahanmisi. “They were bumping, pushing. We weren’t getting that many calls so we just tried to play through it.”
Minnesota sophomore forward Joe Coleman said there was one surprise for him in the game. “They rebounded probably better than we expected.”
The two teams each had 35 rebounds, and Iowa had 18 offensive rebounds.
At MSU Wednesday night the Gophers won’t be surprised by MSU’s rebounding because the Spartans are one of the Big Ten’s better teams in rebounding margin. Izzo no doubt will remind his players which team had the most rebounds in Minneapolis. Count on that.
And perhaps talk about revenge.