Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Early season rematch: Gophers get second shot at Spartans

Of each team’s 18-game conference schedule, tonight’s contest will mark Minnesota and Michigan State’s fifth. Yet even with the Big Ten’s fourteen teams, the matchup in East Lansing will also represent a rematch from two weeks ago.

Following the team’s 75-74 overtime defeat to the Spartans in Minnesota’s conference home opener December 27, the Gophers look to avenge its lone Big Ten loss tonight. Michigan State, meanwhile, has had its share of struggles this season and sees an opportunity to host a team it just defeated not long ago.

Coached by Tom Izzo, Michigan State (11-6, 3-1 conference) has yet to play up to its perennially lofty expectations. Case in point, the Spartans lost a home contest to lesser-known Northeastern earlier this season. Izzo’s squad has since responded with three consecutive wins to open up conference play; but then suffered its first Big Ten defeat in its last game – a 72-63 loss to Penn State on Saturday.

As for Minnesota, third-year head coach Richard Pitino has his squad playing well in the early portion of its Big Ten schedule. The Gophers (15-2, 3-1) loss to the Spartans aside, Minnesota has recovered for three straight wins. This includes a road win over then-No. 15 Purdue, a Boilermakers team which delivered Wisconsin its first defeat in conference play – a 66-65 win on Sunday which ensured that every Big Ten team has incurred a conference loss.

The Gophers and Spartans will tip off at Michigan State’s Breslin Center tonight at 6:00 p.m. (CT)