East Lansing, Mich. – Gophers senior captain Eric Curry was playing the best game of his career on Wednesday night after suffering an ankle injury in the last minute against number 10 Michigan State.
Curry, who delayed being a graduating assistant to play a sixth season, led his team to a career-high 19 points, but he watched helplessly off the bench as his teammates came short without him.
Joy Hauser’s lay with less than a second to play broke any hope of a monumental mess in the Gophers’ 71–69 defeat against the Spartans, extending their winning streak to nine games in a row.
Gophers coach Ben Johnson said of Curry, “He loved the ankle.” “I don’t know the extent of it, but EC warriors. He will be fine. … He is like the leader of our team and he did a great job of showing that. [Wednesday],
Curry, who overcame three major injuries earlier in his career, landed awkwardly after a defensive rebound with 59 seconds remaining. Not able to put weight on his lower left leg, Curry was kicked off the floor by members of the Gophers staff.
Inspired by his inspirational leader, senior guard EJ Stephens hit two free throws to level the score at 69–69 with 25.5 seconds, but enough to avoid the Spartans their first home loss in the series since 2014–15. was not. ,
In the final game, Michigan State’s AJ Hoggard ran down the lane and took the defenders 6–9 away from Hauser, who saw two Gophers players fly away before sinking point-blank shots.
“They were going downhill, and we helped climb the floor too late,” Johnson said. “But there were a couple of times in that game [the Gophers] Could be folded easily. This is a tough place to play. He did not give in to the crowd. He didn’t speed up. They just kept coming.”
The Gophers (10-4, 1-4 Big Ten) handled the taunts and scoffs of the opposing student class and scored several runs from the first-place team in the Big Ten. Four starters scored in double digits for a 65-point combination, including Stephens, who was second in the team behind Curry with 18 points.
“The EC is the heart and soul of this team,” Stephens said. “He leads us all the way. It hurts when one of our brothers goes down, but at that point in the game we had to keep pushing and grinding. He made a play in the end.”
After trailing by 10 points in the first half, the Gophers were down only 34-31 when senior guard Peyton Willis defeated the halftime buzzer with a crowd-silencing three-pointer.
Willis, who had only nine points in shooting 3-for-13 in a 75-67 loss on December 8 against Michigan State at Williams Arena, finished with 15 points on Wednesday.
The Spartans (14-2, 5-0) were not able to play over the weekend, when their rivalry game against Michigan was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Wolverines.
In Sunday’s 73-60 loss at Indiana, the Gophers erased a 12-point deficit to take the lead in the assembly hall in the second half, but they could not score in the final three minutes.
Sophomore forward Jamieson Battle extended his streak of double-figure scoring games to his 10. extended to 29 withth Point at the baseline jumper to tie the score 51-51 (he finished with 13). And Curry drew fouls on Bingham and Hauser under the basket, twice giving the Gophers a one-point lead in the middle of the second half.
BoxScore: Michigan State 71, Gophers 69
Willis and Stephens spent the entire night attacking the defense of the state of Michigan by storming the alley. Curry, who had 18 points in the first meeting with Michigan State, was again an internal force. The Gophers outscored the Spartans in the paint with 30-26 points.
Curry, who was in the walking boot after the game, defeated Michigan State’s opening frontcourt in the game himself, but it was Hauser who decided the outcome of the final game.
The Gophers, who lack frontcourt depth, can only hope that Curry can recover from another blow as he held his head high before.
“If Eric can go, he’s going to go,” Johnson said. “He’s a grown man. He’ll tell me when he’s ready and will do what’s right to be well and ready.”