EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Spartans celebrate Magic & victory.

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

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: NBA legend and former Michigan State star Earvin “Magic” Johnson poses with his 1979 NCAA National Championship Michigan State team as they are recognized during halftime between the Michigan State Spartans and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

 

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 ninth-ranked Spartans to a 79-55 win over Minnesota on Saturday to keep the festivities positive.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: Matt McQuaid #20 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots the ball and draws a foul from Amir Coffey #5 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

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

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

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: Daniel Oturu #25 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers shoots the ball against Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

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 lead Minnesota 35-24. 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.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans gives instructions to his players during a game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second half at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

“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 of the starting lineup.

“I won’t know anything until (Sunday), but at least I know it’s not broken,” Izzo said.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: Thomas Kithier #15 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots the ball against Matz Stockman #35 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first half at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

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 without a turnover for the Spartans.

The Golden Gophers (16-8, 6-7) have lost a season-high three games and the latest setback was a rout in part because their leading scorers, Amir Coffey and Jordan Murphy, combined to score just nine points after entering the game scoring more than 30 points per game.

“We’re easy to guard right now,” coach Richard Pitino said.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: Gabe Kalscheur #22 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers drives to the basket while defended by Kyle Ahrens #0 of the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

Minnesota’s Gabe Kalscheur scored 17 points and Daniel Oturu had 12 points, starting in place of forward Eric Curry, who was out with a calf injury.

“We need Eric back,” Pitino said. “We’re just a more complete team with him.”

BIG PICTURE

Minnesota: Painfully, 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.

“We’ve got to get our confidence back,” Gophers guard Dupree McBrayer said.

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.

“It made a big difference,” Izzo said.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Spartans will likely fall in the poll because they lost 79-74 at Illinois on Tuesday night.

MISSING JUD

Johnson and Greg Kelser, who also stared on Michigan State’s first national championship team, both lamented the reunion didn’t include the late Jud Heathcote , their coach who died in 2017.

 

EAST LANSING, MI – FEBRUARY 09: NBA legend and former Michigan State star Earvin “Magic” Johnson speaks to the crowd during halftime of the game between the Michigan State Spartans and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Breslin Center on February 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

 

“It’s bittersweet without Jud,” Kelser said. “We’ll have fun with this, but it will be with a heavy heart.”

UP NEXT

Minnesota: Plays at Nebraska on Wednesday night.

Michigan State: Plays at No. 19 Wisconsin on Tuesday night.

 

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