The No. 12 Michigan State Spartans were at their most Izzonian on Wednesday. They didn't shoot all that well, but they surged in the second half on account of their tough-nosed defense for a 61-50 win over the No. 18 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
The win pushed Michigan State into a tie for second in the Big Ten standings. Both the Spartans and the Michigan Wolverines now sit at 8-2, a half-game behind the 8-1 Indiana Hoosiers, who are also the No. 1 team in this week's Associated Press Top 25.
Once one of the highest-billed teams in college basketball early this season, Minnesota has since fallen out of orbit and all but crash-landed in the middle of the Great Lakes. Tubby Smith's team, which won 15 of its first 16 games this season and started the Big Ten schedule at 3-0, is now 5-5 in conference play. The Golden Gophers had won two games in a row before Wednesday's loss.
The Spartans led by as many as 12 in the second half at 41-29, but Minnesota used its rebounding advantage to help push itself back in the game to as close as within five points.
Trevor Mbakwe finished with nine points and 14 rebounds for Minnesota.