Cam Christie leads Gophers to 59-56 win over Michigan State

Cam Christie #24 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers celebrates his three-point basket against the Michigan State Spartans in the second half at Williams Arena on February 06, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Golden Gophers won 59-56.  ((Photo by David Berding/Getty Images))

Cam Christie probably felt like he had something to prove as the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team hosted Michigan State Tuesday night in front of more than 8,200 fans at Williams Arena.

He did that, and then some. Back on Jan. 18, he fouled out in just 16 minutes and scored eight points in a 76-66 loss to the Spartans at the Breslin Cener. Tuesday night? He scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half as the Gophers rallied from down nine for a 59-56 win over Michigan State. Christie was recruited by Tom Izzo out of high school as his older brother, Max, played for the Spartans and is now with the L.A. Lakers.

"It was a ton of fun to play in that game. It definitely fueled me, I went into that game with a chip on my shoulder, excited to play there and unfortunately it got cut short due to me fouling out. Just do what I do best," Christie said. "It’s a great feeling. These are moments, these are games that you dream of playing as a kid. Playing Big Ten basketball against at team like Michigan State, this is what you really wish for. When the moment comes, you can’t let it be too big."

Christie made a career-high five 3-pointers, and Ben Johnson drew up plays in the second half to get shots for the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. That’s after Christie scored 10 of his 15 points in the second half of Saturday’s overtime win over Northwestern, including a 3-pointer with 41 seconds to play in regulation.

"He’s one of those guys when you see it, you know it and not everybody has that innate kind of instinct. Whatever that ‘it’ is, he’s got that. Not fear the moment, isn’t scared to fail, wants the ball, wants the shot. He’s a stud and rose up," Johnson said. "That’s who he is, these results don’t surprise people that see him every day."

The Gophers improve to 15-7 on the season. They’re 6-5 in Big Ten play, in a tie for fourth and are above .500 over halfway through conference play for the first time in five years. That’s also the last time they were in the NCAA Tournament. They’re on a three-game Big Ten win streak for the first time in seven years.

Minnesota has six Big Ten wins with nine regular season games left. The Gophers had six total Big Ten wins in Johnson’s first two seasons combined. The first thing Johnson did postgame? Thank the fans who were at Williams Arena. The student section was full, and it was loud enough that the players had trouble communicating on defense.

The Gophers are now 13-3 at Williams Arena this season.

"I thought our student section was awesome, that thing was packed through the roof. They brought the energy, they set the tone. As I was walking in, there was a different type of buzz. I just felt it," Johnson said. "There was a different energy today from the very start. It impacts winning so much more than they realize."

Dawson Garcia added 10 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:27 to play that gave Minnesota the lead for good. Pharrel Payne had eight points and seven rebounds, and Parker Fox provided the first half spark with eight points. The Gophers won the second half 32-24 after trailing 32-27 at the break.

After missing the loss at East Lansing with an ankle injury, Elijah Hawkins had six points, six assists and three rebounds in 39 minutes.

Tyson Walker and Jaden Akins combined for 36 points to lead Michigan State, but no other Spartans' player had more than six points. Michigan State averages 75 points pre game on the season, the Gophers held them to 56.

Johnson and the Gophers will celebrate this win, then it’s onto the next. They’re at Iowa on Sunday.