Michigan State basketball shakes off early lull to beat Northwestern, 73-67

·2 min read

EVANSTON, Ill. — Tom Izzo lamented Michigan State basketball’s loss last year at Northwestern. And the 10th-ranked Spartans got another scare from the Wildcats on Sunday.

Yet in a game filled with big runs, momentum swings and ugly refereeing in both directions, MSU survived with some clutch scoring down the stretch.

Gabe Brown’s 3-pointer with 49 seconds left and two free throws with 21.1 to go helped fend off another Northwestern upset attempt and gave the Spartans a 73-67 victory Sunday afternoon.

Brown’s 20 points led MSU (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten). Marcus Bingham Jr. returned from missing the Spartans’ last game against High Point with COVID and had 13 points and nine rebounds. Max Christie scored 11 points with seven rebounds, while Joey Hauser added 10 points.

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Pete Nance had 13 points as one of four players in double figures for Northwestern (8-2, 1-0). The Wildcats shot just 32.3% for the game and 20.8% from 3-point range, going 1-for-10 from deep in the second half to mirror MSU’s first-half shooting struggles.

Michigan State's Malik Hall (25) dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago.
Michigan State's Malik Hall (25) dunks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago.

Christie’s putback dunk with 13:43 to play sparked MSU’s 13-2 run and gave the Spartans a 51-44 lead on Brown’s 3-pointer with 10:17 to go.

Northwestern wouldn’t go away, and the Wildcats benefitted at the free-throw line. They went 17-for-27, including 16 of the Wildcats’ final 21 points as the refs whistled both teams for a combined 36 second-half fouls. MSU went 19-for-24 after halftime and 26 of 33 for the game.

But Brown’s 3-pointer in the final minute helped keep the Spartans afloat. Hauser hit two free throws with 13.8 left to seal MSU’s victory.

Things couldn’t have started much worse than they did for the Spartans, whose sluggish start mirrored the flatline atmosphere inside Welsh-Ryan Arena.

After scoring five points early, the Spartans’ offense went into hibernation. Northwestern drained three 3-pointers, two of them from Ty Berry, to take its first lead. Meantime, MSU missed its final eight from beyond the arc and went 1-for-10 in the first half while making 9-of-26 overall.

It didn’t help that the Wildcats dominated the Spartans on the boards in the first half, 26-18, including 11-4 on the offensive glass. And Northwestern ripped off a 16-4 run as MSU’s shots kept clanging to take a 31-18 lead on Pete Nance’s layup with 3:16 before halftime.

That’s when the Spartans got hot, starting with a pair of Brown free throws and a Julius Marble dunk in transition sparking an 18-4 run capped by 3-pointers from Christie and Hauser and a Brown jumper.

MSU hosts Nebraska at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Breslin Center in East Lansing (BTN).

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball shakes off early lull to beat Northwestern