Gophers senior guard Sean Sutherlin, the team's top scorer off the bench, returned to the lineup Wednesday night against Michigan State after missing the previous game because of a knee injury.
Sutherlin, who averages 9.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench, watched Sunday's 81-76 victory at Mississippi State in street clothes, but he checked into Wednesday's game in the first half of the Big Ten opener at Williams Arena. He finished with eight points in 24 minutes.
"I think he really helps them," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "He's a tough kid who takes it to the hole and punishes people. I didn't know if he was going to play or not, but he's a good player."
Senior forward Danny Ogele was also in uniform Wednesday after being sidelined Sunday because of a non-COVID illness.
The 6-5 Sutherlin, a New Hampshire transfer from New Brighton who played at Irondale, was almost like a sixth starter for the Gophers in his first six games this season. He had three consecutive double-figure scoring games last month, including 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting in the 78-49 Nov. 19 victory against Purdue Fort Wayne.
Sutherlin scored the most points (44) combined in consecutive games off the bench since former Gophers guard Isaiah Washington during the 2017-18 season, so the Gophers' rotation shrunk even more without him Sunday.
Forward Charlie Daniels was the only other Gophers reserve averaging double figures in minutes, but Daniels only played nine minutes against Mississippi State.
Izzo a fan of new Gophers coach
Izzo was one of the first Big Ten coaches to congratulate Ben Johnson for becoming the new Gophers men's basketball coach in late March.
"He hit me up right away with a text and call," Johnson said. "He couldn't be more excited for me. He's a guy I have ton of respect for."
Izzo, the longest-tenured coach in the conference at 27 years, once recruited Johnson as a high school standout at DeLaSalle in the late 1990s. He also coached against him when Johnson played in the Big Ten for Northwestern and the Gophers.
"Ben Johnson's a kid I recruited a little bit, I know Ben pretty well," Izzo said. "I think he's done a hell of a job there."
Johnson said Izzo gave him some advice when they chatted at Big Ten media day in Indianapolis before the season, but they had already started competing against each other on the recruiting trail.
Four-star Cretin-Derham Hall point guard Tre Holloman, the No. 1 senior in the state of Minnesota, signed with the Spartans in the early national signing period in November.