On the hardwood at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, there were at least seven slips on the court throughout the first ten minutes of the game.
The falls may have been caused from the slick floor, or perhaps a bit of first half nerves. For Michigan State and Northwestern players, it could have been more than that.
Northwestern was facing a must-win game to have any shot in making the NCAA tournament, yet a chance in the NIT.
On Michigan State’s end, it meant an NCAA tournament seeding and an opportunity to have more experience with their full lineup together, which was plagued by numerous injuries throughout the season.
Neither team had good scoring in the first half, and the Wildcats stayed within five points for the first 10 minutes of the game. But they had a lot of trouble matching MSU in the post.
In the final 6:45 of the first half, MSU went on a 21-10 run and led 40-22 at halftime.
MSU blew the game wide-open on a major momentum shift towards the end of the half when Denzel Valentine got a steal at half-court and went on a fast-break to the basket. A Northwestern defender was right on him as he was going up for a shot, but he dished the ball behind his back to Matt Costello, who was pushed by Dave Sobolewski for a and-one bucket, which also included a technical foul.
Branden Dawson had 10 points and three rebounds in the first half, and the Spartans shot 55 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point land.
In the second half, Northwestern clawed back to 15, but the Spartans took control with several blocks, steals and fast-break baskets to cruise to a 67-51 win.
Dawson led the Spartans with 16 points and was one board shy of a double-double. Adreian Payne was in foul trouble for most of the game and only had five points in 19 minutes of play.
Michigan State plays Wisconsin to see who would advance to the Big Ten championship game for the first time since 2012 on Saturday. The Badgers are also coming off a dominant performance, as they handed the Minnesota Golden Gophers an 83-57 blowout loss.
The last time MSU played Wisconsin, Dawson was out with an injury and the Spartans lost 60-58. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET or 25 minutes after the completion of the Michigan vs. Ohio State game.
Alex Scharg is a mutlimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Andrew Hayes, host of Impact Izzone, contributed to this report.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports