Against Iowa on Christmas Day, the Gophers needed all the offensive firepower they could muster to top the then-No.4 Hawkeyes 102-95 in overtime.
Facing another top 25 opponent in Michigan State on Monday, the newly No. 21-ranked Gophers showed they can win in more ways than one, dominating the No. 17 Spartans’ offense in a resounding 81-56 win.
The hallmarks of Michigan State basketball and head coach Tom Izzo over the years, rebounding and defense, were instead the driving force behind Minnesota’s second
onsecutive upset of the season and first win over Michigan State since March 10, 2017.
The Gophers (9-1, 2-1) held Michigan State to just 26 percent shooting on 18 of 70 attempts and won the rebounding battle 52-36. In the first half at Williams Arena, the Spartans scored only 16 points on 6-of-38 shooting.
Minnesota had struggles of its own shooting the basketball at times – particularly in the first half – but strong play from center Liam Robbins and guard Marcus Carr steadied the otherwise streaky Gophers.
Carr, who was announced as the Co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday, finished with 19 points along with five assists and four rebounds.
Robbins tallied 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks and was the heartbeat for Minnesota on both ends of the floort. He scored the opening six points of the game and helped
Minnesota jump out to an early 9-0 lead that it never relinquished.
His performance came at a great time for Minnesota, because after making 27 3-pointers in their last two games, the Gophers converted on just 6 of 25 triples Monday.
But with the help of Robbins, they didn’t need it.
Instead Minnesota made its living inside scoring 40 points in the paint, its most in Big Ten play this season.
Fresh off two wins against ranked Big Ten opponents, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Minnesota. Its next five games are all against top 25 opponents, with No. 6 Wisconsin looming on New Year’s Day in Madison, Wis.