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Michigan State basketball: 3 keys to victory vs. Minnesota

Here’s what the Spartans need to do on Thursday night.



Michigan State basketball
© Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

With Minnesota coming to town, what must Michigan State basketball do to beat the Gophers and improve to 11-7 on the year?

Michigan State basketball has one final home game before it hits the road again. The Minnesota Golden Gophers come to town for a big game on Thursday night, a game that the Spartans must win.

Here are my three keys to victory for Michigan State against Minnesota.

1. Contain Dawson Garcia

Dawson Garcia has been Minnesota’s best player by far this season. He is averaging 17.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, both team highs for the Gophers.

Garcia is also the definition of consistency. He has hit double figures every game this season, also eclipsing 30 points on two occasions. This includes hitting 30 points in their last game, a loss to Iowa. I use the word contain, because Dawson might be someone you can’t fully stop.

One thing in Michigan State’s favor, however, is that you can sag off Garcia when guarding him. He is shooting 20.5% from beyond the arc this season, including 0-for-8 combined in his last three games. The Spartans can use this to their advantage by playing off him defensively when he has the ball on the perimeter.

Mady Sissoko and Carson Cooper likely will be the main Spartans tasked with slowing him down. Malik Hall could even get a little run at defending him as well. But like I said, the goal shouldn’t be to stop Dawson, just contain him. MSU’s chances of winning this game will skyrocket if they hold him to 10-14 points versus scoring above 20.

2. Get the bigs involved more

This is more of a key moving forward this season, but this matchup might be the perfect time to get some in-game reps with it.

Tom Izzo recently spoke about the Spartans’ need to get their bigs more touches in the post. So what better time to work on that than in a game at home that Michigan State has a good chance to win?

Izzo expressed the need for not only improved post play, but more touches for our bigs down low to improve their offense overall. Jaxon Kohler getting back in the rotation should help a lot with that, so MSU’s focus should be getting him more comfortable again. Kohler gives this team a new look that can help keep defenses on their toes. Instead of focusing on the MSU guards, they have to respect Kohler’s elite post game. If MSU can get Sissoko and Cooper closer to Jaxon’s level in the post, this Michigan State offense may become unstoppable.

3. A Tyson Walker bounce-back

Michigan State needs to find a way to get Tyson Walker going again. It’s not that he’s been playing poorly recently, but he hasn’t been his normal self either. After three straight games of scoring at least 22 points, Walker has only scored 17 and 13 points in MSU’s last two games.

Now Michigan State basketball might not need Tyson to score a ton to beat Minnesota, but it will need him at their best in the coming games. Michigan State travels to Maryland and Wisconsin next, two games that the Spartans could lose. So to have a good chance of winning those, Walker needs to be sharper. Similarly to improving the post play, what better time to get Tyson going again than at home against an inferior opponent?

Lead writer for Spartan Shadows since April 2023, writing over 450 articles. Michigan State basketball, football and recruiting expert. Class of 2019 graduate from Michigan State University specializing in Sports Management. Daily MSU runs a popular X page (@daily_msu) covering all things MSU Sports.


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