EAST LANSING, Mich. - In another physical Big 10 contest, freshman Gary Harris scored 15 points to lead No. 8 Michigan State to a 61-50 win over No. 18 Minnesota on Wednesday.
Despite moving gingerly throughout the game after he was taken out of last Thursday's win over Illinois with back spasms, Harris gutted it out and led the way on 5-of-11 shooting for the Spartans, including 4 of 8 from behind the 3-point line.
Junior co-captain Keith Appling added 14 points and junior center Adreian Payne 11 points and seven rebounds for MSU, which won for the eighth time in its last nine games and is now 13-2 since suffering a loss at Miami (Fla.) on Nov. 28.
The Spartans (19-4, 8-2) moved into a tie for second place in the Big 10 with rival Michigan with a showdown between the two teams looming on 8 Tuesday in East Lansing.
But before that, MSU must go on the road to play Purdue on Saturday night.
In paying back Minnesota for a 76-63 Gophers win in Minneapolis on Dec. 31, MSU overcame a hideous first half that saw it shoot 24 percent from the field (6 of 25) and trail at halftime, 20-18.
Trailing 25-20 with 17:53 remaining in the game, MSU responded by going on a 21-4 run to take a 41-29 lead with 9:52 left on a steal and dunk by sophomore Branden Dawson.
Minnesota stayed within striking distance from there, shaving its deficit to as little as four at 49-45 with 2:48 remaining.
From there though, the Spartans did what they have done so well this season, which is finish strongly.
MSU squashed the Minnesota charge by scoring the next seven points of the game to take a 56-45 lead with 1:35 left.
The Gophers (17-6, 5-5) couldn't get closer than nine points the rest of the way and saw a brief two-game winning streak snapped.
Sophomore Andre Hollins scored 11 points and senior Trevor Mbakwe had nine points and 14 rebounds in defeat for Minnesota, which will look to rebound on Sunday at home against Illinois.
The Gophers started slow, but went on a 14-5 run over the final 6:13 of the first half to take a 20-18 lead at intermission.
The Spartans didn't commit a single turnover in the first half, but were outrebounded by the Gophers in the first half, 20-14.
Points were at a premium in the first half between Michigan State and Minnesota on Wednesday.
It was anything but crisp offense from both teams, as the Spartans and Gophers combined to score just 38 points in the first half.
Minnesota did get going late, ending the first half on a 14-5 run over the final 6:13 of the first 20 minutes to take a 20-18 lead at halftime.
The shooting numbers weren't pretty for either team.
Minnesota shot 38.1 percent from the field (8 of 21), while Michigan State was even worse, shooting just 24 percent (6 of 25) in the first half.
The Spartans didn't commit a single turnover in the first half, but were outrebounded by the Gophers, 20-14.
NOTES: Minnesota has not won at Michigan State since 1997, the year the Golden Gophers went to the Final Four. ... With 1:17 remaining in the game, Appling walked off of the court with the team trainer and doctor after suffering a shoulder injury. At the time he was in tremendous pain, but he did return to the bench with 40 seconds remaining. ... Michigan State sophomore guard Travis Trice didn't play because of a concussion he suffered in last Thursday's home win over Illinois. ... MSU freshman guard Gary Harris also left the Illinois game with back spasms, but returned to the starting lineup against Minnesota and scored six points in 16 first-half minutes.