Gophers Can't Recover From Slow First Half
Gary Harris scored 15 points and Keith Appling added 14 points before leaving the game with an injury to help No. 12 Michigan State bounce back from a poor first half to beat No. 18 Minnesota 61-50 Wednesday night.
Appling left the court with 1:17 left, holding his right shoulder after getting tied up with Joe Coleman. He returned to the bench in the final minute.
The Spartans (19-4 8-2 Big Ten) moved into a second-place tie with No. 3 Michigan, whom they host Tuesday night. They picked up their eighth win in nine games since losing the conference opener against the Golden Gophers (17-6, 5-5) on the road.
Michigan State took control of the rematch with a 21-4 run - after trailing by five points early in the second half - to take a 41-29 lead.
The Gophers didn't have a scorer in double figures until Austin Hollins' 3-pointer with 3:38 left pulled them within five points. Hollins finished with 11 points. Coleman was one of his three teammates with nine points.
The Spartans pulled away with some shots and stops.
Appling made a layup, Adreian Payne connected on two free throws and Harris had a three-point play to put them ahead by 11 points with 1:35 to go. Payne blocked a shot and Derrick Nix had a steal during the victory-sealing stretch.
A fired-up crowd got quiet when Appling left the game in another potential setback for a banged-up team and roared when he jogged back to the bench with 40 seconds left in the game.
Travis Trice, Appling's backup, wasn't cleared after having a head injury last week. Harris played after being knocked out of the previous game with back spasms and was limited in practice early in the week.
The Spartans also lack depth in the backcourt because Brandan Kearney transferred during the season to Arizona State.
Payne was out of the game for part of the second half with a bloody nose.
The Spartans had much more success offensively with their guards shooting from the outside on a night their post players struggled. They made 9 of 18 3-pointers and connected on fewer than 44 percent of their shots overall.
Nix and Payne, both of whom are averaging nine-plus points, both missed all three of their shots and were scoreless in the first half.
Nix made the opening shot of the second half, tying the game at 20 after each team struggled to shoot in the first half. Payne had 11 points in the second half to help Michigan State maintain its dominance against the Golden Gophers.
The Spartans have beaten Minnesota in 13 of the past 15 games overall and 14 straight at the Breslin Center, where they're undefeated this season. That mark will be tested next week against the rival Wolverines and the following week against top-ranked Indiana.
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