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I don't think many of you really cared about the game until it was tied with less than seven minutes to play. That's how it was for me.
MSU was leading by about eight points in the first half when...
Michigan blew a five-point lead with less than a minute left, but still had a layup attempt to win a share of the Big Ten. But it rolled off. You crazy MSU fans who wanted Indiana to win got your wish in the best way imaginable. I still don't understand it, but I never will.
At that point, MSU seemed to be cruising, and I was still in a bit of shock about the U-M finish. Northwestern tied the game in the second half and a three-pointer rimmed out. But the Spartans finally focused and pulled away for a 71-61 final score.
The four factors really tell the whole story.
Despite a pretty lackadaisical overall effort, MSU turned in its highest PPP of the year (1.3) and overall shooting percentage.
MSU hit 68% on twos, 60% on threes and 75% from the line against NU. Not a bad day's work.— Tim Conner (@connertp) March 11, 2013
Northwestern is a terrible defensive team, and it showed. Northwestern is also a terrible rebounding team, but they actually had more total rebounds than MSU despite 19 more missed shots. That's pretty awful for MSU. But I'm attributing that the team not really caring after their Big Ten hopes were gone and seeding predetermined.
Same with the defense. You could tell when MSU was trying, and when they weren't. It usually was if Northwestern got an open layup or didn't.
-- Keith Appling led MSU in scoring for the second straight game: 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including making his only three-point attempt. He also had four rebounds, two assists and two turnovers. The last two game have been very encouraging for his offense. He's getting into the lane and to the hoop or pulling up for mid-range shots, and he's hitting them.
-- Gary Harris scored in double-figures for the seventh straight game, finishing with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting (2-for-4 from 3). He had three assists, one steal and one turnover. A typical solid game from him.
-- Derrick Nix scored 10 points in his final game at Breslin Center. He was 5-for-6 from the floor with four rebounds six(!) assists, a steal and two turnovers. A terrific finale, other than much of the defense. It was his idea to wear the Hyper Elites, by the way. As he checked out for the final time and kissed the logo, Izzo had tears.
-- Adreian Payne was solid, with 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, with four rebounds and a steal. He also had problems on defense, but that's what happens with Northwestern.
-- Branden Dawson finished with six points and six rebounds in just 21 minutes. I don't recall seeing him much, so I don't have much to say.
-- Travis Trice scored eight points (2-for-3 from 3) with three assists and zero turnovers. He's finally playing like the backup points guard MSU was hoping to have all year if not for the injuries.
-- Russell Byrd had four points on free throws to get tacos for everyone.
Pretty much everyone had a solid offensive day, while the defense and rebounding could be better. But I'm going to chalk it up to not having much to play for. We could keep talking about if it was also the final home game for Harris and Payne, but it's not really going to change anything. We'll find out after the season. There are more important things right now.
Next up is the Big Ten Tournament. MSU will play late Friday night against the winner of Iowa/Northwestern. You can see the whole bracket here.
They finished inches from a Big Ten championship, but finishing in second place with a 13-5 record in this conference is nothing to sneeze at, especially with all the injuries this team dealt with. They head into the postseason with momentum, and I think people should be feeling pretty good about where this team is at right now.
Izzo emotional: Says you should be prouder of this team than any team I've ever had.— Graham Couch (@Graham_Couch) March 11, 2013
Izzo choking up a bit and yelling at times as he addresses crowd. Didn't want title through backdoor. Didn't want to be handed anything.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 11, 2013
Izzo: "Next weekend, our asses are showing up. And I can promise you that."— State News Sports (@thesnews_sports) March 11, 2013
Nix: "Coach Izzo is probably the closest thing I've had to a father."— State News Sports (@thesnews_sports) March 11, 2013
Nix: "Things happen. But Coach was in my corner the whole time. He came to rescue me."— State News Sports (@thesnews_sports) March 11, 2013
Nix: "This is probably the best team I've ever been on in my whole life. They all have come to my rescue ... all I have to say about that."— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 11, 2013
Izzo on the Big Ten Tournament: "This is way bigger than some Final Fours I've been in," in terms of ranked teams.— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) March 11, 2013