Spartans end 3-game skid with win over Gophers

Michigan State's Matt McQuaid, left, drives against Minnesota's Gabe Kalscheur during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 79-55. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)


AP Sports Writer

EAST LANSING — Magic Johnson was back at Michigan State, joining his teammates to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of winning the national championship.

The Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers president had plenty of opportunities to flash his familiar smile.

Nick Ward had 22 points and Matt McQuaid scored a season-high 18, leading the No. 9 Spartans to a 79-55 win over Minnesota on Saturday to keep the festivities positive.

“That’s why you come to places like this,” McQuaid said. “This place is special.”

MSU (19-5, 10-3 Big Ten) ended a three-game losing streak, their longest in two years.

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.

“We’ve got to leave those games in the past and move forward,” Ward said. “I just came out determined to do everything I could to win this game.”

Ward 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 take a 35-24 lead. The junior forward made the first two shots after halftime and the Spartans went on to lead by 28 points midway through the second half.

“I’ll give Nick Ward credit,” coach Tom Izzo said. “We got to figure out how to keep that going.”

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. X-rays were negative, but Izzo doesn’t know if or how long Goins will be out.