Thursday, October 22, 2020

No. 2 men's basketball beats Northwestern despite 27-point deficit

February 17, 2018
Sophomore guard Cassius Winston (5) jumps up in joy during the second half of the men's basketball game against Purdue on Feb. 10, 2018 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Boilermakers, 68-65. (Nic Antaya | The State News)
Sophomore guard Cassius Winston (5) jumps up in joy during the second half of the men's basketball game against Purdue on Feb. 10, 2018 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Boilermakers, 68-65. (Nic Antaya | The State News) —

Northwestern lost two straight games and three out of its last five coming into Saturday's matchup with the second-ranked Spartans, and was without senior point guard Bryant McIntosh. The Wildcats suited up only eight scholarship players. 

But for most of Saturday’s game it looked like none of that was going to matter. That was until the Spartans completed the biggest comeback in Big Ten history.

No. 2 MSU (26-3, 14-2 in the Big Ten) rallied from a 27-point deficit to beat Northwestern, 65-60, at Allstate Arena to extend its winning streak to 10 games. 

The Wildcats had struggled in their recent games, shooting a combined 35 percent from the field in their last two outings against Rutgers and Maryland. But none of those struggles showed in the early goings against the Spartans, as the Wildcats opened up a 12-6 lead over MSU at the first timeout of the game, and extended it to a 20-6 advantage at the second one a few minutes later.

Junior forward Vic Law helped the Wildcats outscore the Spartans 29-21 from the point on and take a 22-point lead in the half, as the South Holland, Illinois product dropped in 18 first half-points, including four makes from 3-point territory.

As a team, the Wildcats went 8-of-13 from beyond the arc and made 60 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half. In contrast, MSU was just 3-of-9 from deep and shot 33 percent overall in the opening half. 

The whistle made things even worse for the Spartans in the early going, as guard Miles Bridges and forward Jaren Jackson Jr. each picked up a pair of fouls in the first half. 

Northwestern led the Spartans 53-32 at 16:40 mark in the second half off a pair of free throws by freshman guard Anthony Gains. Over the proceeding eleven minutes MSU would go on a 24-0 run.

The run by the Spartans was sparked by sophomore point guard Cassius Winston, who scored eight points during the stretch including a pair of triples. After scoring just four first half-points, Winston put in 13 after the intermission. 

MSU tied the game at 53 points a piece around the eight minute mark on a putback layup by sophomore forward Nick Ward, and a few minutes later Winston dumped the ball down to Jackson for a layup plus a foul. The freshman completed the three-point play to pull the Spartans ahead of the Wildcats for the first time all game 

Both teams would exchange baskets during the final minutes of the contest until consecutive trips to the foul line for Bridges and Winston allowed the Spartans to close it out. 

Northwestern scored just 11 points in the second half and went 3-of-26 overall after connecting on 18 of its 30 field goal attempts in the first half. MSU shot 54 percent from the floor in the second half after going 8-of-24 before halftime.

Winston and Ward led the Spartans in scoring, putting in 17 and 15 points, respectively. 

The team will head back to the Breslin Center for senior night and the final home game of the season against Illinois (12-15, 2-12).

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