EAST LANSING, Mich. – Just when the Gophers were used to being at full strength during the Big Ten season, they had to play without starting center Eric Curry in Saturday’s 79-55 loss to No. 9 Michigan State.
The 6-9 sophomore, who already missed the first 12 games this season after knee surgery, was sidelined by a calf injury.
“We need Eric back,” coach Richard Pitino said. “We’re clearly a better team, just a more complete team with him back.”
Curry was averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 19.5 minutes this season, but he was limited to two points and one rebound in 28 minutes combined in his past two games.
Pitino said he hopes Curry can play Wednesday at Nebraska. The Memphis native had been showing progress last month with an 11-point game in a Jan. 19 victory over Penn State.
Freshman Daniel Oturu replaced Curry in the starting lineup and had 12 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes. Senior center Matz Stockman also finished with six points, four rebounds and two assists off the bench in 14 minutes.
Oturu and Stockman struggled defending Michigan State center Nick Ward, who had 22 points and nine rebounds.
“From a rotation standpoint and ball-movement standpoint, we were letting them push us off the block,” Pitino said. “Not fighting for that post position.”
The Spartans also lost forward Kenny Goins to an elbow injury early on. X-rays were negative, coach Tom Izzo said.
Michigan State’s celebration for the 40th anniversary of its 1979 championship team ended up being an even bigger deal with the presence of the most famous member of that team.
Magic Johnson spoke to the current players before the game, and the former Lakers star and current team president also dazzled those in attendance with his stories about his fond memories of his time with the Spartans and coach Jud Heathcote, who died in 2017.
“The stories keep getting better and bigger,” Johnson said. “We do regret that the best college basketball coach at that time is not here with us. Our leader Jud Heathcote is shining down from heaven looking at us and is proud of the men we have become.”
Following Wisconsin’s 61-52 loss at Michigan on Saturday, Badgers guard Brad Davison was asked about a play from three nights earlier at Williams Arena, when the sophomore from Maple Grove appeared to step intentionally under Jordan Murphy on a rebound. The Gophers contacted the Big Ten for clarification on if Davison should have been called for a foul.
Davison told reporters in Ann Arbor: “Obviously it wasn’t intentional. What happened is I drove and missed a wide-open layup. And I was watching the ball, willing it to go through the net. Then when it came out I was going to dig up like we are taught to try to get a rebound. I realized Murphy is a little taller than me, so there was no way I was going to get it, so I went to run down the court.
“And how it looks, perception kind of becomes reality and people can say what they want. They can twist it that way and this way.”
He added: “I know who I am. I know what I stand for. … I would never try to hurt somebody, especially somebody that I know. It’s just an unfortunate incident that happens in a high-level, full-speed sport.”