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January 11, 2014
Gophers nOT quite strong enough, 87-75
EAST LANSING - Michigan State can't count on many of its players to perform consistently well.
Keith Appling has been an exception in Big Ten play.
Appling scored 24 points to help the fifth-ranked Spartans beat Minnesota 87-75 in overtime Saturday after overcoming a double-digit deficit in the second half and blowing a lead late in regulation.
"No lead is safe at the end of a game, especially in the Big Ten," Appling said.
The Spartans (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten) are well aware of that fact.
The Spartans scored 15 straight points while holding the Golden Gophers (13-4, 2-2) scoreless for nearly 8 minutes after trailing 53-43 with 15:57 left.
Michigan State missed an opportunity to win in regulation for the second straight game, losing a five-point lead in the last 13 seconds.
The Spartans were without Adreian Payne because of a sprained right foot.
"There's nothing medically wrong that we can observe," coach Tom Izzo said. "There's no stress fracture. He wanted to play. He's not being a wimp. He just didn't feel he could, so I didn't want to take a chance and suit him up."
Payne didn't start the previous game, but scored 18 points in an overtime win over No. 3 Ohio State in which Michigan State wasted a 17-point lead in the second half.
"We deserve some criticism for how we've executed," Izzo said.
Late in regulation, the Gophers (13-4, 2-2) made plays and got a break that gave them a shot to pull off an upset.
Minnesota's Malik Smith made his fifth 3-pointer, Gary Harris missed two free throws with 11.3 seconds left for the Spartans and DeAndre Mathieu's layup with 1.7 seconds left tied the game and sent it to overtime.
First-year Gophers coach Richard Pitino was glad Mathieu made the shot, but it wasn't the one he wanted.
"I was running a play and trying to shoot a 3 to be honest with you," Pitino said.
Michigan State scored the first nine points of OT, ending Minnesota's chance to beat a top-five team on its home court for the first time in school history and to win at the Breslin Center for the first time since 1997.
"Anytime you go on the road in a great environment and you step up for 40 minutes and you don't win the game, it is a bit of a missed opportunity," Pitino said. "But there will be plenty more."
Minnesota's next two home games are against Ohio State and Wisconsin, teams currently ranked No. 3 and No. 4 in The Associated Press poll.
The Spartans barely did enough to keep winning and match the best 16-game record Izzo has had in 19 seasons, equaling the record they had during the 2000-01 season as defending national champions.
Minnesota guard Austin Hollins turned the ball over with 42 seconds left and teammate Andre Hollins had an ill-advised 3-pointer blocked with 23 seconds left, trailing by three on each possession.
Then, the Gophers struggled to take care of the basketball in OT and couldn't stop the Spartans.
"We just made some bonehead plays," Andre Hollins said.
Minnesota needed more than 4 minutes to score in the extra period and those points pulled it within seven.
"We came in confident," Andre Hollins said. "We expected to win this game. It's not a moral victory. We have to give them a lot of credit for making their free throws."
Andre Hollins scored 24 and Smith had 17 points off the bench. Smith scored 11 of his points, nine on 3-pointers, in the first 12 minutes of the game to help the Gophers lead 41-36 at halftime after making 7 of 12 shots beyond the arc. They made just 3 of 14 3-pointers in the second half and overtime.
Harris had 19 points and redshirt freshman Kenny Kaminski scored a season-high 15 - all on 3-pointers.
Appling said Kaminski, "saved the day," for the Spartans.
Izzo has not been pleased lately with Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine and both played relatively well at times against Minnesota.
Dawson finished with six points and 10 rebounds after not scoring and grabbing just three rebounds in the first half.
"There's something wrong with Branden," Izzo said. "There's something bothering him. You can see it - you don't have to be a coach."
Valentine had nine points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and a blocked shot late in regulation.
"He got some big rebounds late and he defended better," Izzo said.
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