Usually, if Michigan State scores 84 points, shoots 50 percent from the field and commits seven turnovers in a game, one can safely assume that they won handily. MSU got the win, but it took some effort as Northwestern gave the Spartans all they could handle in an 84-77 overtime thriller.
Both coaches agreed that Michigan State got away with one.
“I’m heartbroken for my team because I felt we deserved to win the game,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said after the game.
“The performance today was not one I’m very proud of,” Tom Izzo added.
The game looked like a boxing match where neither fighter was interested in defending. Michigan State jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first half. Northwestern pulled within four, thanks largely to its bench, which had the ‘Cats first nine points. Then MSU went on another run to build a 23-9 lead. And so it continued until the Wildcats went on a 15-4 run to tie the game at 30. Northwestern missed just 2 shots during that stretch.
The second half was much like the first. Northwestern jumped out to a small lead and MSU answered. The teams traded baskets until Michigan State went on a 15-2 run to go up 11 on the Wildcats with just over seven minutes to play.
Then the ‘Cats leading scorer Tre Demps went to work. The junior point guard scored 12 of Northwestern’s final 17 points to give them the lead with 28 seconds to play.
A foul by Vic Law and two clutch free throws from Denzel Valentine knotted the game at 72. Demps got a clean look from three at the buzzer but just missed and the teams headed to overtime.
Michigan State’s defense woke up in the second half, holding Northwestern scoreless for the first four minutes of the period and just five points total to seal the win.
Travis Trice recorded his first career double double with 18 points and 10 assists. All five MSU starters scored in double figures. Valentine finished with 17 points, Gavin Schilling and Branden Dawson both added 13 and Bryn Forbes contributed 11.
Michigan State shot an uncharacteristically good 73 percent from the free throw line and attempted 26 free throws on the game, their second highest total on the year.
The Spartans get a six day break before they head to Maryland for a shot to redeem a December loss. Izzo said he plans to use the time to really get to work and get his team in shape. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m.
“The ball went in the basket,” Collins said. “It’s the same shots we’ve been getting all year, we just made them today.”
Andrew Hayes is the host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports