EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A few quick thoughts from Michigan State's 61-50 victory over Minnesota.
Overview: Indiana commanded the Big Ten spotlight Saturday by defeating then-No. 1 Michigan. Three nights later, the Wolverines became the buzz after they bounced back with a 76-74 overtime win in an epic tilt with Ohio State.
Wednesday, it was Michigan State's turn.
The Spartans reminded everyone that they, too, are legitimate contenders for the Big Ten title by emerging from a physical battle with Minnesota in front of a sold out crowd at the Breslin Center. Gary Harris had 15 points and four assists and Keith Appling added 14 points and three steals for Michigan State. Trevor Mbakwe led the Gophers with nine points and 14 rebounds.
Michigan State trailed 20-18 at intermission before rallying in the second half for its eighth win in nine games. The Spartans led by as many as 12 points with 9:57 remaining. Minnesota pulled within four points, 49-45, on an Austin Hollins free throw with 2:48 remaining. But the Spartans scored the next five points to put the game out of reach.
The victory gives No. 12 Michigan State a 19-4 record overall and an 8-2 mark in league play. Eighteenth-ranked Minnesota fell to 17-6 and 5-5. The Gophers have lost five of their past seven games.
Turning point: Trailing 25-20 early in the second half, Michigan State uncorked a 21-4 scoring run that ended with the Spartans leading 41-29. Minnesota never recovered.
Player of the game: Harris and Appling combined to score 29 points and made a collective 7-of-12 attempts from 3-point range. They also combined for seven assists.
Observations: Adreian Payne (nose) and Appling (shoulder) both had to go to the locker room in the second half Tuesday with apparent injuries. But each eventually returned.
Key stat: Michigan State went 9-of-18 from 3-point range.
Up next: Michigan State plays at Purdue on Saturday. Minnesota hosts Illinois on Sunday.