EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) – Nick Ward had 22 points and Matt McQuaid scored a season-high 18, leading No. 9 Michigan State to a 79-55 win over Minnesota on Saturday.
The Spartans (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) ended a three-game losing streak, their longest skid in two years.
The Golden Gophers (16-8, 6-7) have lost a season-high three games. Michigan State was very motivated to play well in part because Magic Johnson was in the stands, attending the game as part of a celebration for the 1979 national championship team.
Ward, in particular, started the game inspired and appeared to stay motivated to bounce back from his previous home game. He was 1 of 9 at the free throw line, including a miss that would have put his team ahead late in regulation, and the Spartans were 8 of 22 as a team in a 79-75 overtime loss to Indiana last Sunday.
The junior forward opened game with a basket, grabbed eight of his nine rebounds over the first 20 minutes, and closed the first half with a block to help Michigan State lead Minnesota 35-24. Ward made the first two shots after halftime and the Spartans went on to lead by 28 points midway through the second half.
Michigan State, which has struggled to stay healthy, may have another injury concern. Senior forward Kenny Goins played just 7 minutes in the first half and didn’t play after halftime because of a bruise on his left elbow. Freshman Thomas Kithier took advantage of the opportunity to play in Goins’ place, scoring a season-high eight points. Cassius Winston had 11 points and nine assists for the Spartans.
Minnesota’s Gabe Kalscheur scored 17 points and Daniel Oturu had 12 points.
The Gophers’ leading scorers, Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy, combined to score just nine points after entering the game scoring more than 30 points per game.
Minnesota: Painfully, coach Richard Pitino has found out his team is coming up short against ranked teams in the Big Ten. The Gophers closed a six-game stretch that included five games against ranked teams and beat just No. 19 Iowa and unranked Illinois.
Michigan State: McQuaid did what the Spartans need him to do more often without shooting guard Joshua Langford, who recently had season-ending surgery on his left foot to officially take a 15-point scorer out of the lineup. McQuaid entered the game averaging 8.3 points and more than doubled that by making 6 of 9 shots, including 4 of 6 3-pointers.
The Spartans will likely fall in the poll because they lost 79-74 at Illinois on Tuesday night.
Minnesota: Plays at Nebraska on Wednesday night.
Michigan State: Plays at No. 19 Wisconsin on Tuesday night.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25
Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/LarryLage