MINNEAPOLIS — Mission: Accomplished. At least with Tom Izzo’s most immediate goal for Michigan State basketball’s Big Ten opener.
Erase the stench from a year ago.
The 20th-ranked Spartans did so with a dominating start-to-almost finish performance filled with energy and focus for much of their 75-67 victory over Minnesota on Wednesday night.
MSU (8-2, 1-0 Big Ten) built a 19-point lead before holding off a late surge from the Gophers (7-1, 0-1), aided by some egregious turnovers by the Spartans after halftime.
Point guard Tyson Walker scored a season-high 15 points with five rebounds and three assists. Gabe Brown and Malik Hall combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds, and Joey Hauser scored 10 points with eight boards.
MSU committed eight of its 13 turnovers in the second half but also had 18 assists on 25 made baskets, owned a 44-29 rebounding margin and made 10-of-21 from 3-point range. Its defense limited Minnesota to just 6-for-23 from deep.
The Spartans host Penn State at 2 p.m. Saturday (BTN) in their last of two December conference games.
After hearing from Izzo early in the week about the “embarrassment” from last year’s 25-point loss at Williams Arena, the Spartans did everything with a high level of intensity for the entirety of the first half.
Defensively, they came out and bottled up the Gophers, holding Minnesota to just 2-for-11 from 3-point range and 30.3% overall in the first 20 minutes.
Joey Hauser keyed a strong effort on the boards, grabbing six scrappy rebounds to go with five from Hall and four from Brown for a 24-16 edge in the half.
Offensively, the turnovers stayed to a minimum with five while the overall efficiency of the ball movement increased. That resulted in 10 assists as MSU went 13-for-28, including 6-for-11 on 3-pointers, to build a 37-24 halftime cushion. Hall and Walker combined for 20 points in the first half on 7-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range. That included the first six of the game from Walker, followed by six straight from Hall.
Minnesota pulled within 17-15 on a 3-pointer from Luke Loewe that got The Barn bouncing, but Walker drilled his second of the half from behind the arc to quickly silence the crowd. Three-pointers from Brown and Hall, with one from Hauser in between, bookended a 13-5 pull-away stretch late in the period.
Brown scored a layup just before halftime, then hit a jumper to open the second as MSU built its lead to 18 and forced Gophers coach Ben Johnson to call timeout less than 3 minutes into the final half.
The Spartans’ lead swelled to 19, but Minnesota chipped it back to 12 as MSU went 4 minutes without a basket. The Gophers then cut it to nine on a 3-pointer from E.J. Stephens and a steal and dunk by Seth Sutherlin off a bad pass from A.J. Hoggard that forced Izzo to call timeout with 3:55 to play.
Minnesota got within six with 31.7 seconds left on a Loewe 3-pointer, part of a 6-2 spurt with inside a minute to play. But Max Christie hit a pair of free throws, and the Spartans got a defensive stop to run out the clock.
Christie finished with nine points but made just 1 of 6 3-point attempts and went 3-for-9 from the field.
The Gophers made 48.6% from the floor in the second half but went just 4-for-12 on 3-pointers. Curry led Minnesota with 18 points, while Jamison Battle added 17.