MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Michigan State point guard Kalin Lucas found his rhythm against Minnesota, handing the Gophers their first loss of the season.
Look out Big Ten.
Lucas scored a career-high 24 points and Chris Allen added 13 as the 10th-ranked Spartans beat No. 21 Minnesota 70-58 Wednesday.
Al Nolen led Minnesota (12-1) with 14 points, and Lawrence Westbrook added 11 in the Big Ten opener for both teams. The Gophers missed their chance to improve to 13-0 and match the mark last reached by the 1948-49 team.
“It just brings us back down to reality,” Nolen said. “It lets you know you’re not as good as you think you are, you’re not as bad as you think you are. We really just got to regroup and just put this game in the past.”
Defense and rebounding were the dominant story lines, and Michigan State won both categories. Lucas, the speedy 6-foot sophomore, led the Spartans offense.
“I think he’s starting to see things, he’s so quick,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Last year, he went at a blur speed and did not really get to see the court and see what was happening on it.”
In his last seven games, Lucas has 42 assists and seven turnovers. Against Minnesota, he scored 15 points in the second half as the Spartan softened up the Gophers defense with backdoor screens.
“More last year I was just trying to be fast and stuff,” said Lucas, whose previous career-high was 20 points. “This year, I’m trying to take my time more.”
Michigan State (10-2) wore down the smaller Gophers by repeatedly attacking the basket and clogging the lane defensively. With Minnesota big men Jonathan Williams and Ralph Sampson III in foul trouble, only freshman Colton Iverson was left to battle against Michigan State’s frontcourt.
Minnesota shot a season-low 39.6-percent from the floor, often settling for long-range jumpers. The Spartans outrebounded the Gophers 49-27 and outscored them 28-18 in the paint.
“When a team beats you by 22 on the boards, you have no chance of winning,” Gophers coach Tubby Smith said.
Up next for Minnesota is No. 24 Ohio State on Saturday.
“We’ll learn a lot from this game,” Smith said. “I think our guys will respond the right way.”
The game was tied at 30 early in the second half before the Spartans outscored the Gophers 18-6. Minnesota struggled to play catch-up the rest of the way. Goran Suton had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Michigan State, while Raymar Morgan had 10 and 10.
“All in all, a good first road win,” Izzo said.
The Spartans’ only losses this season are to Maryland and North Carolina.
The scrappy Gophers led only once, 2-0, and stayed close for much of the game despite their poor shooting. Michigan State led by as many as nine early. Minnesota closed to 30-29 at halftime by going 6-for-8 from the floor after starting the game by missing 10 of its first 12 shots.
The Gophers went cold again to start the second half and couldn’t keep pace as the Spartans build their lead.
“We’ve been out of sync a little bit, but today I think we played better than we did against Texas,” Izzo said, referring to his team’s 67-63 win over the then-No. 5 Longhorns on Dec. 20. “Other than a couple of sloppy plays we executed pretty well, we rebounded pretty well, we defended pretty well. I’d say this was one of our best games.”
The Spartans have beaten the Gophers in nine of their last 10 meetings. Minnesota hasn’t beaten Michigan State since Feb. 11, 2006.