EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP)—After Paul Davis gave Michigan State four 1,000-point scorers on the same team for the first time, he deflected credit to his much-maligned teammates.
Shannon Brown had 18 points and Maurice Ager scored 16 to lead the 11th-ranked Spartans past Minnesota 81-62 on Wednesday night, their fourth straight win by double figures.
Davis surpassed the milestone in the first half to join Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Alan Anderson in the 1,000-point club.
“You have to hand it to our seniors,” said Davis, a junior, who scored 14 points and matched a career high with 12 rebounds. “A lot of people just look at championships, and that is on our mind, but those three guys have done a lot for this program and need to be recognized more.”
Michigan State’s senior class is often blamed for a 12-game losing streak against ranked opponents, dating to the regional finals of the 2003 NCAA tournament.
The Spartans (18-4, 9-2 Big Ten) have won 15 of their last 17 games to tie the third-best record after 22 games in school history.
“I think they’re the most underrated team out there,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “They’re 18-4 and people think they’re underachieving. They lost to Duke, Illinois, George Washington and had one really bad loss that was unthinkable to Wisconsin.”
Then, Monson joked: “I can’t believe they’re having such a tough year.”
The Golden Gophers (16-9, 6-6) have lost three in a row, hurting their chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve been a team that had some success this year and it’s been triggered by our defense and we’ve run into a road block defensively for a third straight game,” Monson said. “To simulate what they do in transition is pretty difficult. We were back, but we weren’t back enough because they just ran by us.”
Minnesota’s Vincent Grier scored 19 points after being held to six in the first half. Grier averaged 28.3 points in his previous three games. Dan Coleman scored 12 and Jeff Hagen had 11 for the Gophers, who fell into sixth place in the Big Ten.
The Spartans turned the game into a rout late in the first half and early in the second with a 25-7 run, giving them a 20-point lead.
“We’re playing better basketball at the right time of the year,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.
Anderson had 10 points for the Spartans, who are alone in second place two games behind undefeated Illinois.
Michigan State point guards Drew Neitzel and Hill combined for 11 assists.
“When we play like that, we’re hard to stop,” Neitzel said.
After the Gophers went ahead for the last time, Michigan State outscored them 13-4 and took an eight-point lead.
During the run, Monson was so upset about a foul not called on Torbert against Grier he got a technical with a tirade that left him with his suit coat off and his shirt untucked.
“I thought he did (get fouled),” Monson said walking away from his news conference.
The Gophers pulled to 26-24 with under 7 minutes left in the first half, then they gave up seven straight points in less than a minute and were never got close again.
Michigan State led 45-31 at halftime.
Fired Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders attended the game. His son, Ryan, is a walk-on for the Gophers, and Izzo is a close friend.