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The Spartans run Northwestern out of the gym, 79-50

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MSU pulls away from the Wildcats in the second half

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

EAST LANSING — Spartan fans expected a comfortable night walking into the game against Northwestern. This contest wasn’t supposed to be stressful — even with Michigan State losing two out of its three latest road games.

BUT it wouldn’t be Michigan State basketball without a little stress, would it? And it wouldn’t be a home game against Northwestern without fans thinking it might be a trap.

None of that mattered.

The No. 14 Spartans took care of business Wednesday night and reinserted themselves back into first place within the conference (a half-game lead on Illinois).

Cassius Winston finished the contest with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, while Xavier Tillman gave the offense 12 points and eight rebounds.

Foster Loyer, who has become a nice catch and shoot player for the Spartans, hit four 3-pointers for 12 points (he’s shooting 51.4% from beyond the arc on 35 attempts).

Even all that wasn’t good enough for Tom Izzo, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.

”I wasn’t happy with our consistency; I guess that’s the biggest thing. My headline would be ‘consistency’ with a question mark,” Izzo said. “And you know what? You can get away with that against certain teams. You’re probably not gonna get away with that on the road anywhere in this league. And if you look at the teams we got coming up now, there aren’t gonna be many nights off here in the next 10 games. So if we don’t get that consistency, it’s gonna rear its ugly head and get us.”

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It looked like MSU might put Northwestern away in the first half (but here’s the stressful part I mentioned earlier). After jumping out to a 16-2 lead less than seven minutes into the game— Michigan State allowed the Wildcats to recover and go on a run of their own.

Northwestern would pull within three points.

Surprisingly, Kyle Ahrens return seemed to ignite his teammates along with the Breslin.

With 1:49 left in the half, Ahrens made a hustle play, which set up Bingham for the smooth jumper before draining a three-pointer himself — pushing the Spartan lead to double digits, 33-22.

During the second half, it was all Michigan State.

MSU held the Wildcats scoreless for the first 3:34 to open the half and outscored Northwestern 24-8 during the first 11 minutes.

The Spartans weren’t letting them back in this game. And they didn’t.

What remained was a blowout.

”I feel like everybody was focused in on getting a win, and everyone was locked in on their assignments,” said Marcus Bingham.

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports