Needing a quality win to boost its postseason resume, Northwestern didn’t get it Wednesday in East Lansing.
Not even close.
Michigan State (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten) blitzed Northwestern (9-5, 0-3) in the first half, using an extended 37-16 run to blow the floodgates wide open and rout the Wildcats 81-55 to kick off 2019.
From the opening tip, the Spartans — playing without Josh Langford on the wing — bullied the Northwestern bigs down low, and the fouls racked up for the Wildcats. As it has historically, Michigan State pounded Northwestern on the glass (mostly defensively) and in the paint, out-rebounding NU 48-25 and outscoring NU 52-28 on points in the paint. Michigan State nearly had more points in the paint than Northwestern had total points.
Nick Ward scored all 21 of his points in a dominant first half, routinely establishing favorable position against Dererk Pardon, who played tentatively when guarding Ward after getting in early foul trouble. Curiously, Chris Collins opted not to double Ward in the first half after his blistering start, and the third-year Spartan big took full advantage with smooth spin moves and textbook footwork.
Northwestern didn’t even play terribly in the first half, but Michigan State was making almost everything, and a wide disparity in fouls didn’t help matters. Pardon, Vic Law and A.J. Turner all had three fouls in the first half, and the Wildcats had trouble mustering enough perimeter scoring to keep up with the Spartans on the road.
After the teams traded buckets and went up-and-down in the opening minutes, Northwestern started forcing shots. Fouls piled up, and Michigan State subsequently pulled away. With 8:34 left in the first half, Northwestern trailed 26-24. At halftime, Northwestern trailed 52-32.
For as good as Ward and Xavier Tillman (14 points) were for Michigan State, Pardon actually played well. He posted a 19 points on 9-of-15 shooting, and he was the only Wildcat to do much of anything offensively. When he sat for a stretch in the first half after picking up his second foul, the game got out of hand.
A.J. Turner got off to hot start with a pair of baskets on the game’s opening minutes, but cooled off afterward. Ryan Taylor, Northwestern’s other transfer, posted another dud of a performance, scoring 9 mostly empty points on 3-of-10 shooting and failing to provide almost any resistance defensively.
Here are more stats from the game, if you want to burn your eyes:
- Northwestern shot 34 percent from the floor. Michigan State shot 59 percent.
- Northwestern went 3-of-18 on threes.
- Michigan State out-scored NU 28-4 on fast break points.
- For the first time in a while, Vic Law struggled offensively, scoring 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting after getting into foul trouble in the first half.