Sometimes, there’s not much to say. A game is pretty on one side and not so much on the other.
This would be one of those moments.
MSU didn’t pull away until the midway point of the second half, but stat geeks would notice this game wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreboard indicated at that point. Simply put, this was the game Nebraska should have been, and Michigan State looked determined not to let that happen again.
There were multiple instances of Northwestern’s defense flustering the Spartans, moving the shot clock to the final ticks. And while MSU wasn’t flawless in the shot clock violation department, their ability to hit a bucket in the final seconds of the red clock really summed this thing up.
As for highlights, there were plenty. You know when MSU scored the first seven points that it would be a rough offensive night for the Wildcats. I doubt anyone thought NU would have fewer first half field goals (seven) than MSU’s 3-pointers (eight). Northwestern shot 22.6 percent from the field in the first frame and an abysmal 20.7 percent for the night, while MSU hit eight triples out of 11 tries in the first 20 minutes. The Spartans finished with four more 3s than NU’s total buckets from the field.
Five of those were made by Denzel Valentine, who is simply playing on a different level right now. He’s turning into the leader that Tom Izzo has not only been looking for this season, but seemingly every campaign this decade.
Give credit to Matt McQuaid as well. Izzo used this game as a teaching tool for the freshman, and – although he had bumps on the way – seemed to soak up the teachable moments en route to 17 points and five 3-pointers.
MSU takes on Rutgers on Sunday before traveling to Ann Arbor a week from Saturday.