FINAL: Turnover bug finally dooms No. 10 Spartans, fall to Northwestern 62-64


MSU forward Julius Marble looks for an open teammate during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Trent Balley, Sports Editor

EAST LANSING – The Northwestern Wildcats traveled to frigid East Lansing to take on the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans for the second time this season on Saturday. The Spartans won the first outing despite a strong first half effort from the Wildcats. This time around, the Wildcats were able to play a full 40 minutes to down the Spartans 64-62, handing MSU its first Big Ten loss of the season.

“Tonight, (our players) found out what it’s like when other guys are hungry, too,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said.

The game got off to a relatively slow start, as the first points didn’t come until the 18:06 mark when MSU’s Gabe Brown knocked down a turnaround, mid-range jumper off a Max Christie offensive rebound. Close buckets from Northwestern’s Boo Buie and Ryan Young made the score just 4-2 Wildcats at the under-16 media timeout as both defenses locked in early.

MSU forward Max Christie tries to prevent Western Michigan guard Adrian Martin from driving to the bucket/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Later, Chase Audige and Robbie Beran connected on back-to-back 3-pointers for Northwestern, spearheading a run to put them ahead 12-4 just six minutes in.

“We didn’t come out ready to play,” Brown said. “They did a good job of just playing harder.”

The Spartans were then able to string together a 10-2 run to tie the game back up at 14. Perhaps the most impressive bucket in the run was a 3-point desperation heave from Brown as the shot clock wound down on a broken play. Brown would hit a second 3-point a minute later, as the Spartans took a 17-15 lead with 9:25 until halftime.

With the game tied at 30, the turnover bug struck the Spartans again. A pair of bad passes from Brown and Jaden Akins, as well as an offensive foul on Mady Sissoko, resulted in turnovers on three straight possessions.

“I’ve been telling you all that the turnovers are going to get us,” Izzo said, “and that’s mine to fix.”

Lucky for them, the Wildcats were only able to get one free throw out of it to take a 31-30 lead in the final minutes of the half.

The Wildcats took a six-point lead with under a minute until the break, in a run highlighted by a contested 3-pointer from Buie. Akins hit a free throw for the Spartans to make the halftime score a 38-33 Wildcat lead. Perhaps the two biggest proponents for the Wildcats was their seven offensive rebounds in the first half, as well as a horrendous 13 Spartan turnovers. Buie, Brown and MSU’s Julius Marble each had the halftime-high of eight points.

MSU head coach Tom Izzo talks with forward Julius Marble during the Spartans’ 71-69 win over Minnesota on Jan. 12, 2021/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

The Spartans opened the second half with energy, stealing the ball and scoring on a Brown layup in transition, all in the first 11 seconds. But Northwestern took its largest lead of the game, 46-39, minutes later. For the Spartans, it took a Joey Hauser 3-pointer to pull them back to within four points and energize the home crowd once again. A defensive stop and an A.J. Hoggard layup in transition forced Northwestern coach Chris Collins to call timeout with 14:09 to play, his squad leading 46-44.

Christie managed to tie the game at 46 with a pair of free throws. Then, with just over 11 minutes to play, Marble swatted an Audige layup attempt and put in the go-ahead layup on the other end. At long last, the Spartans had the lead again.

After yet another Spartan defensive stop, Malik Hall had a 3-point attempt blocked as the shot clock was running down, but Marble was able to corral the miss and go up for another made layup.

However, the Spartans continued to turn the ball over and the Wildcats continued to dominate the glass. As a result, the Wildcats found themselves recapturing a 51-50 lead with 7:05 to play.

Audige knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats in control, up 57-52 with 4:47… but Malik Hall had other plans. On the ensuing Spartan possession, he knocked down a three of his own in the right corner, and got fouled. He hit the free throw, converting the 4-point play. 

With 2:43 to play and the Wildcats smelling blood, Young converted an and-one layup to put his squad ahead 62-56. Desperately needing a turnaround, Izzo called timeout with 2:39. Out of the timeout, Christie drew a foul and converted on the bonus free throws to pull his Spartans back to within four points.

Marble was able to knock down a post hook with one-and-a-half minutes left, making it 62-60 Northwestern. The Breslin Center crowd got right back to jumping, forcing a Collins timeout with 1:15 to play and 11 seconds on the shot clock. Off the inbound, Buie drove on Walker and drew the foul. He hit the free throws to make it 64-60.

MSU forward Julius Marble looks for an open teammate against Minnesota/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

On the other end, Marble was fouled with 59.2 seconds to play, and converted both bonus free throws. With the Spartans desperately needing a stop, they got one as Marble forced a Young miss down low. Christie secured the rebound, and the Spartans called timeout, down two points with 26.7 seconds on the clock.

Out of the timeout, Marble took the ball to the paint and lost his dribble. However, he was able to tie it up with the Wildcats, forcing a held ball. The Spartans had the possession arrow, so back to the drawing board they went with another timeout.

Out of the second timeout, Hall found himself wide open at the top of the arc, but missed the shot. Beran grabbed the miss, but traveled with it, giving the Spartans one last chance with exactly one second on the clock and a baseline inbound. 

Hauser inbounded a lob to Marcus Bingham Jr. who missed the tip-in but got fouled. He would head to the line for a one-and-one chance, but missed the front end as the Wildcats escaped with an upset victory.

“You get what you deserve, and we got what we deserved today,” Hall said.

The Wildcats finished the game with a whopping 17 offensive rebounds, while the Spartans turned the ball over a dismal 17 times. Ultimately, that was the recipe for the result. Buie, Audige and Young combined for 44 points, leading the Wildcats to victory. Marble had 18 points for the Spartans, while Brown had 10 points and nine rebounds.

The Spartans are off until Friday when they’ll travel to Madison to take on the Wisconsin Badgers.

“We’ve got five days of hell in front of us,” Izzo said.

You can follow Trent Balley on Twitter at @TrentBalley.