EVANSTON, ILL. – After one of their worst first half showings of the season, Michigan State men's basketball found themselves with a 65-63 lead over Northwestern with 1:54 remaining and an offensive posession on deck in Evanston.
Out of a timeout, junior guard Tyson Walker drove to the basket but missed the shot. Senior forward Gabe Brown was there for the putback but missed it himself.
However after Northwestern missed their own chance, Brown found his redemption.
Waiting in the corner, Brown snatched a pass from Walker to drive in a solid three-point shot to give the Spartans a 68-63 lead with under one minute remaining.
In crunch time, MSU escaped the Windy City with a 73-67 win over Northwestern Sunday afternoon.
After sitting out against High Point due to COVID-19 protocol, senior center Marcus Bingham Jr., junior guard Steven Izzo and freshman guards Max Christie and Pierre Brooks all returned for the Spartans’ third Big Ten matchup of the season. However, a sluggish first half proved the team missed some vital practices with players out.
"It affected me," Bingham Jr. said of his return from COVID-19 protocol. "When you're sitting at home doing nothing you lose your condition and stuff like that. My legs were kind of heavy but as the game flowed on then I got my rhythm back."
In an eerily quiet Welsh-Ryan Arena, only the crowd painted in green and white could bring it back to life. And in the first half, MSU gave them no reason to do so.
The Spartans’ 2022 debut was riddled with a horrendous first half of basketball in which Northwestern took what was once a 13-point lead. On 33.3% shooting, a 1-for-10 mark from the three, and nine turnovers, MSU entered the first half locker room trailing 33-26.
The 26 first-half points just topped the Spartans' season-low 23, which ironically came against a fellow Chicago squad in Loyola.
"The way we played the first half, I'd like to get put in jail," MSU head coach Tom Izzo said. "Still disappointed in some things we did and really encouraged by some other things we did."
Northwestern dominated the boards in the first half, grabbing 26 compared to the Spartans’ 18. The Wildcats carried similar energy into the second half, finishing with a season-high 15 offensive grabs.
Northwestern’s usually lethal junior guard Boo Buie, who scored a career-high 30 points against MSU, put up a mere 12 points. Instead, Northwestern found their dagger in MSU's 15 turnovers and lackluster aggression at the boards.
And although the second half didn’t prove all that much better, MSU pulled off a win that looked improbable earlier in the match.
Redshirt senior Joey Hauser, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds, made two clutch threes that kept the Spartans competitive before things got out of hand.
Christie, who played his first game at his mother’s alma mater, kept the energy alive with an 11 point performance and a dominating putback dunk midway through the second half.
Northwestern and MSU combined for 36 fouls in the second half alone. The teams battled through a free-throw shootout in the final 10 minutes which ended with MSU on top.
"Seems like there was fouls every minute, " Izzo said. "I feel bad for the officials, I think the rules committee has to look at some things. It was both ways."
Next up, Michigan State will return home to take on Nebraska on Jan. 5.
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