Michigan State loses free-throw contest and the game to Minnesota

First win by the Golden Gophers in East Lansing since 1997 puts Michigan State on the verge of not making the NCAA Tournament

MSU’s record against the RPI non-conference stands at 67, which does not look good again after dropping a 96-90 overtime decision at home to Minnesota.

Gang Green nearly had matters sealed up when Denzel Valentine hit two free throws with 25 seconds to put the Spartans ahead by five, 77-72.

Minnesota forced the extra period when Carlos Morris (finished with a team high 20 points) made a game tying 3-pointer while being fouled with only 2.2 seconds left in regulation.  He missed the free throw that could have iced the game, but in a very chippy game where both teams were whistled for 52 personal fouls (23 for Minnesota, 29 for Michigan State).

The biggest stat disparity was at the charity stripe:

Minnesota attempted 20 free throws in the extra session – as many as the Gophers had tried in the first 40 minutes.  They converted 14 of their 20 attempts in overtime and finished the game 29 of 40 for 72.5 percent.

Michigan State was 5 of 9 from the line in overtime and finished 19 of 29 for a rather mediocre 65.5 percent.

Valentine was the game’s high scorer with 27 points, while Travis Trice had a decent effort compiling 21 points and 10 assists.

MSU will pretty much have to run the table these final two plus weeks if they are going to be seeing their name called by Greg Gumbel on Selection Sunday.  Four losses against the RPI’s Top 10 along with suffering their worst loss of the season at the worst possible time to lowly Minnesota puts the Spartans in a rather precarious position.

Sunday afternoon, they travel to Wisconsin as the final game of CBS’ tripleheader coverage (4 p.m. Eastern time tip).  A few nights later will be their home finale in East Lansing against a team hungry for revenge in Purdue (Wednesday, March 4 at 8 p.m. Eastern).  Their final game before the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago will be in Bloomington against another team fighting for respectability in the Indiana Hoosiers.  That game will be on Saturday, March 7 at noon Eastern on ESPN.

Two other small bits of notes before I call it a night:

SMU swept the season series against Josh Pantner and the Memphis Tigers, 66-57 at the FedEx Forum.  The Mustangs still keep their 1/2 game lead over Tulsa with only a few games left to play.

Already there are some preseason holiday tournaments booked and set in stone.  The latest to join the list is the Legends Classic, slated to play on Monday/Tuesday November 23 and 24 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.  The headliners include LSU, Marquette, North Carolina State, and Arizona State.  Look for a pair of freshman to make some immediate impact, Henry Ellenson of Marquette and Ben Simmons suiting up for the Tigers of LSU.

Valparaiso again will try to seal the Horizon Conference regular season crown on Friday, with both Wisconsin-Green Bay and Cleveland State breathing right down the Crusader’s necks.  Keep in mind the Valparaiso at Cleveland State game will be tape delayed, 10 p.m. Eastern time tip on ESPNU.

Other games to keep an eye on are in the Ivy League:
Harvard (9-1 in conference play) leads Yale (8-2) by one game in the race for their automatic bid.  Harvard plays early at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time at Cornell on the CBS Sports Network, while Yale is at home on Friday with a 7 p.m. Eastern time lid lifter against Princeton.
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