FINAL: No. 10 Spartans remain perfect in Big Ten, Hauser hits game-winner to beat Minnesota 71-69


MSU forward Joey Hauser attempts a jumper in the Spartans’ 79-61 home win over Western Michigan on Dec. 6, 2020/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Trent Balley, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING – The No. 10 Michigan State Spartans remain perfect in Big Ten play, with a thrilling 71-69 victory over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Wednesday. It was anyone’s game late, but it was MSU senior forward Joey Hauser playing hero with the game-winning layup.

The Spartans took control out of the gate, but the Golden Gophers would take a 10-9 lead thanks to a Luke Loewe jumper nearly seven minutes in. Thanks to MSU freshman Max Christie, the Spartans were able to take control right back, as he went on a little five-point flurry to put the Spartans back ahead 14-10.

With 10:44 in the half, Hauser went to the bench with an ankle injury. Less than a minute later, Tyson Walker found Christie in transition for a two-handed slam, followed by a defensive stand and a Gabe Brown 3-pointer to get the home crowd back to jumping. The sequence gave the Spartans a 21-13 lead, as Minnesota coach Ben Johnson was forced to take a timeout.

MSU forward Joey Hauser goes for a bucket in the Spartans’ 92-58 exhibition win over Ferris State on Oct. 27, 2021/ Photo Credit: Luca Melloni/WDBM

Hauser returned to the game with just over eight minutes remaining in the half and got right down to business with a made jumper. He would finish even more business later on….

A mid-range jumper from Jaden Akins and a pair of made free throws from Brown put the Spartans ahead by 10, their largest lead of the half. Minnesota’s Charlie Daniels and E.J. Stephens then got into the paint for layups on back-to-back Gopher possessions to make it a six-point game. That Spartan lead would get cut in half at halftime, 34-31, as Minnesota’s Payton Willis knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Christie led the Spartans at the break with 10 points and four rebounds. Marcus Bingham Jr. also had himself a nice half for MSU, posting six points and three blocks in just 11 minutes. Leading the Gophers was Stephens with 10 points and four rebounds, with Eric Curry adding eight points.

The two teams traded buckets to open the second half, as the Spartans never got the lead back up to more than four points before the under-16 media timeout hit.

A pivotal play occurred with 15:18 to play, as Brown picked off Loewe’s pass at the top of the arc. As he and Walker were getting off to the races in transition, Loewe, who was on the floor, stuck his foot out to stop Brown and made contact with Brown’s groin area. The play was deemed a flagrant 1 by officials. After Brown knocked down the free throws, Walker sliced through the defense for a wide open layup to put the Spartans up 46-40.

MSU guard Tyson Walker runs the break in transition during the Spartans’ 92-58 win over Ferris State on Oct. 27, 2021/ Photo Credit: Luca Melloni/WDBM

The Spartans’ turnover bug made its triumphant return halfway through the second half, with MSU carelessly turning the ball over on back-to-back possessions as the Gophers tied the game at 51 thanks to a baseline jumper from Jamison Battle. The Spartans would finish the game with 13 turnovers, with the Gophers turning those into 12 points on the other end.

With just over nine minutes to play, MSU’s Malik Hall was whistled for a questionable traveling call. After a defensive stop, he responded by nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to put his team back up by four.

Back-to-back mid-range jumpers from A.J. Hoggard and Christie put the Spartans up 69-64 with 2:21 remaining. 

MSU guard Max Christie attempts a contested driving layup during the Spartans’ 81-68 win over Toledo on Dec. 4, 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Stephens cut the Spartan lead back down to two with a pair of bonus free throws with 59 seconds to play. On the ensuing possession, the Spartans were lucky to keep the ball thanks to the possession arrow on a jump ball. Off the inbound, Hoggard drove to the hoop and missed a contested layup that Hall was able to corral. Hall was fouled on the floor, sending him to the line for the one-and-one free throws, but he missed the front end. The score remained 69-67.

With 33 seconds to play and the Gophers with the ball, Johnson called timeout to draw up a play. Off the inbound, Stephens drove to the hoop and was fouled by Christie. He took to the stripe for two free throws and knocked them both down, tying the game at 69.

The Spartans inbounded with 25 seconds on the clock and Izzo called timeout with 18. Christie inbounded to Hoggard, who dribbled some clock out before passing to Christie in the right corner. Double-teamed, Christie flipped back to Hoggard, who drove to the basket with four seconds on the clock and found an open Hauser for the go-ahead layup with 0.1 seconds to play, sealing the 71-69 win.

For the Spartans, Christie and Brown combined for 29 points and nine rebounds, while Hauser finished with eight points, five rebounds and the game-winner. As for the Golden Gophers, Willis, Curry, Battle and Stephens all reached double digits in scoring.

You can follow Trent Balley on Twitter at @TrentBalley.