EVANSTON, Ill. (AP)—It was a special night for Shannon Brown.
The Illinois native scored 22 points, including the 1,000th of his career, and Maurice Ager added 21 to lead No. 12 Michigan State to a 77-66 victory over Northwestern on Saturday night.
With more than 30 friends and relatives watching, Brown hit two free throws with a minute left in the game to give him 1,001 points. That made him the 36th Spartan to reach that milestone, joining Ager and center Paul Davis in that club. Brown, a junior from suburban Maywood, hit nine of 14 shots and grabbed eight rebounds.
“To do it in front of his family, that was exciting,” coach Tom Izzo said. “I thought he made a couple of big plays at clutch times. … We have pretty good players, and I think it means we’ve got guys who’ve stuck around. Those two things are good.”
The Spartans (17-5, 5-3 Big Ten) won for the fourth time in five games although they committed 17 turnovers—six by Brown.
“We like to run,” Brown said. “They did a good job putting on the pressure, but we didn’t take care of the ball. We’ve got a lot of stuff to get better at.”
Izzo wasn’t happy about those turnovers. He wasn’t happy that his team was up by just four—33-29—at halftime. And he wasn’t happy about the altercation late in the first half between Northwestern’s Vedran Vukusic and Michigan State’s Travis Walton.
It happened when Northwestern’s Michael Jenkins committed a non-shooting foul against a driving Ager. Vukusic and Walton went for the ball along the baseline, and wound up exchanging words and shoving each other.
All that led to unsportsmanlike technical fouls against Vukusic and the Spartans’ Marquise Gray, and a technical against assistant coach Michigan State Jim Boylen for leaving the bench.
Vukusic hit two technical free throws that capped an 11-0 run and momentarily tied the game at 28. Michigan State maintained possession and took the lead on Ager’s jumper.
“I barely remember anything about it,” Vukusic said of the altercation. “It happens. Nobody wants it to happen, but it did.”
Izzo had more to say.
“The altercation, I was disappointed in everything that happened,” he said.
He was disappointed that the technicals were called, disappointed in himself for not instructing his assistants to remain on the sideline, and disappointed in the rule, itself. Izzo said he didn’t realize assistants have to stay put in situations like that, which he called “a ridiculous rule.”
“The NCAA wants you to make sure nobody’s fighting, and then they don’t want you breaking it up,” Izzo said. “My assistant doesn’t deserve any of the blame for that; I do. I didn’t appreciate the double-technical because I didn’t think that was deserved.”
He also thought his team should have held a bigger lead at the break. But he’ll take what he got.
Ager grabbed 11 boards and was 7-for-9 from the free throw line. Davis contributed 16 points and seven rebounds after missing a game with a head injury to help the Spartans win for the fourth time in five games.
The Spartans blew the game open with a 17-3 run early in the half that made it 50-35 and then watched the lead shrink to eight late in the game.
Davis, Ager and Brown each had five points during that run early in the second, as the lead grew to 50-35. Ager’s 3-pointer capped it.
Northwestern’s lone basket during that stretch was a 3-pointer by Vukusic, who led the Wildcats with 23 points. The Big Ten’s leading scorer hit 7 of 12 shots, but had little help as Northwestern (10-10, 3-6) lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Davis committed two fouls within the game’s first 10 minutes, but seemed fine. He missed the Spartans’ victory over Penn State a week earlier after taking an elbow to the head from by teammate Idong Ibok at practice the previous day—an injury that required 10 stitches.
His alley-oop dunk gave the Spartans their largest lead of the game—61-42 with 8:18 left. But they went nearly six minutes without a basket.
“It felt good for the most part,” Davis said. “I was ready to get out there. It’s pretty much gone now.”