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Dawson, No. 22 Spartans top Northwestern 67-51

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Dawson, No. 22 Spartans top Northwestern 67-51
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Michigan State guard Branden Dawson (22) grabs a rebound against Northwestern defense in the first half …

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- No. 22 Michigan State wanted to prove its healthy and ready for the postseason. Branden Dawson showed the Spartans are well on their way.

Dawson had 16 points and Gary Harris added 13 points to lead No. 22 Michigan State to a 67-51 victory over Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Friday night.

Dawson played in his fourth straight game since missing nine with a broken right hand and even though he continues to wear a brace, Dawson's teammates have asked for him to step up.

''My teammates have been telling me in practice, 'We need more out of you. We just need you running and bringing energy and crashing the boards,''' Dawson said. ''That's what I did tonight. I stayed solid and didn't rush anything.''

After scoring 6.7 points and grabbing 6.3 rebounds in his first three games back, he finished with nine rebounds against the Wildcats and reached double-figure scoring for the first time since he scored 13 against Indiana in January.

''I definitely felt different out there,'' Dawson said. ''When you work on things, you see results. I felt good out there.''

The third-seeded Spartans (24-7), who lost 3 of 4 games heading into the contest, will face No. 12 Wisconsin in one semifinal on Saturday.

Drew Crawford scored 21 points and Alex Olah finished with 10 for the 11th-seeded Wildcats (14-19), who lost to the Spartans in the league tournament for the fourth time.

Michigan State went on a 13-3 spurt in the first half and then extended the lead with a 9-3 run in the second half.

Denzel Valentine made a free throw, and Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Dawson each scored. Harris made a reverse lay-up and hit a 3-pointer to put Michigan State ahead 57-33 with 9:23 remaining.

The Spartans started Payne, Dawson, Valentine, Harris and Appling for the third straight game. The five started the first two games of the Big Ten season, but because of either injuries or illness, the five didn't start together again until Michigan State's win over Iowa on March 6.

Izzo had every player available for only the final three regular-season games and the Spartans still have work to do.

''Let's not kid ourselves,'' Izzo said. ''We are going to be a work in progress every game we play. Are we making progress? Yeah, we are. But tomorrow will be a good test to see where we are.''

In the first half, Tre Demps hit a jumper to make it 27-17 before the Spartans pulled away.

Harris, who scored eight points in the first half, made a pair of free throws and a layup to put the Spartans ahead 31-17 at the start of the 13-3 run.

Dawson scored and Matt Costello dunked to give the Spartans a 35-20 advantage. Then Michigan State forced a turnover and Dave Sobolewski intentionally fouled Costello on a fast-break dunk.

Costello converted the 3-point play and Dawson scored to give the Spartans a 40-20 lead with 45 seconds left in the half.

Crawford hit a pair of free throws to make it 40-22 at halftime.

Harris blocked a shot by Crawford and Payne made a 3-pointer, and Appling scored to give the Spartans a 45-22 advantage to start the second half.

Then the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run.

Nikola Cerina scored and Crawford made a pair of free throws and two baskets to make it 45-30 with 14:55 remaining before the Spartans pulled away again.

''Our guys were dead during the huddles,'' Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. ''It was hard for me to talk to them they were gasping for air so much. What we talked about those last 8 minutes was, 'No matter what the score is, we're going to finish this year the way we've played all year. We're going to finish this year by fighting.'''

The Wildcats end their season after becoming the first 11th-seed to win a Big Ten Tournament game since 1999. Their recent two-game spurt came after Northwestern went on a seven-game skid. They beat Purdue in the regular-season finale and then Iowa in the opening round of the tournament.

The Spartans lost to Wisconsin 60-59 in the only meeting between the teams back on Feb. 9.

''It's going to be an old fashioned fistfight,'' Izzo said. ''That's what Michigan State and Wisconsin is like.''

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