The Minnesota Golden Gophers were facing a must-win game this evening when they hosted the Michigan State Spartans at the Barn tonight, but they allowed the Spartans to close the game with a 14-1 run in the final 4:31 of the ball game. As a result, the Gophers fell to Michigan State by a score of 53-48.
The Gophers had a chance late after two free throws by Michigan State's Keith Appling made the score 50-48. Trevor Mbakwe inbounded the ball to freshman guard Chip Armelin, who lost his defender while driving to the hoop. However, rather than continuing towards the basket, Armelin inexplicably stepped back behind the three-point line and launched a jumper that came up short. Michigan State collected the rebound, and converted three out of four free throws for the final margin of victory.
Guard Kalin Lucas led all scorers with 18 points for the Spartans, who improved to 16-11 overall and 8-7 in the Big Ten. Mbakwe paced the Gophers with 13, and Armelin chipped in with 12. Blake Hoffarber had an awful night shooting, hitting only one out of eight from the field and finishing with five points.
The loss drops the Gophers to 17-10 overall and 6-9 in the Big Ten. At this point, it looks like the Gophers might have to run the table in their final three Big Ten games (and possibly have a good showing in the Big Ten Tournament) to get into the big dance, as that would lift them to a .500 record in the conference and give them 20 wins on the season. It would be tough to deny them entrance into the tournament if they reached those marks.
With the way the Gophers have looked since the loss of point guard Al Nolen, it's also very hard to see that happening, even if the Gophers' next three games all appear to be winnable.
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