For the second straight year, the Northwestern Wildcats (6-2, 1-0) pulled off a stunner in East Lansing, defeating No. 20 Michigan State (5-4, 0-1) 70-63.
Boo Buie led the charge offensively for the ‘Cats with 20 points and 5 rebounds. Chase Audige and Ty Berry were also big-time for the Wildcats, scoring 15 and 11 points, respectively. As for MSU, Mady Sissoko and Joey Hauser was its primary scorers with 12 and 10 points. A.J. Hoggard also had a masterful performance off the bench, putting up 12 points, six rebounds, and eight assists.
The keys to the game were the turnover battle and the charity stripe. The Spartans committed 13 turnovers and shot 9-for-12 from the free throw line, but Northwestern bettered them in both departments, committing just 12 turnovers and making 21 of their 24 free throws.
Coming off of a very tough loss to Pitt, NU opened the game slowly, going down 5-0 before Tydus Verhoeven got a free throw to fall under three minutes in. The Spartan defense forced a shot clock violation early and left Northwestern’s guards with no space to shoot.
However, the Wildcats’ defense was just as strong as Michigan State’s, forcing a pair of turnovers in the first four minutes. The Spartans failed to score from outside the charity stripe from the 19:31 mark until the 14:59 mark.
As expected, the Big Ten opener for both squads was physical early. Berry hit a three-pointer in rhythm on the fastbreak to cut the Spartan lead to 7-6 at the under-16 media timeout, at which point both teams had a combined four turnovers.
The game picked up after the timeout. Buie’s layup chance to give the ‘Cats the lead was blocked from behind by MSU’s Tyson Walker, leading to a Hauser long-range bomb. After trading some free-throws, the teams exchanged downtown makes from Pierre Brooks and Audige.
At the under-12 timeout, Michigan State led 17-13, mostly thanks to going 3-for-4 from downtown and 6-for-6 from the free throw line. Northwestern was also solid in those departments, going 2-for-4 and 5-for-6, respectively.
Coming out of the break, Northwestern lit into the Spartans, with Julian Roper II getting an and-one layup followed by a Boo Buie floater. A Verhoeven dunk with 10:19 left in the half tied things up at 20, but following that the ‘Cats went cold.
Michigan State went on a 7-0 run led by another Brooks three-pointer and Hoggard running the point beautifully. Things seemed to be getting dark for the ‘Cats, but a Berry three and the sixth Spartan turnover helped put Northwestern back in the ballgame at the under-eight timeout.
Both teams were hotter than a Thanksgiving oven, hitting all but one and two of their shots from the 10- to the six-minute mark. The Northwestern defense would shore up, however, allowing just one basket from the 8:24 period to the 4:40 time. After Chris Collins elected to use a timeout with 4:25 remaining in the half, the ‘Cats were only down two points at 31-29.
Northwestern locked down defensively after the break, forcing back-to-back turnovers and a badly missed layup. On offense, big Matt Nicholson got a breakaway dunk before Buie hit a major and-one layup to give the ‘Cats a three point lead. Northwestern also got into the bonus after a foul on Buie, and Nicholson hit a pair of free throws as well.
The Spartans weren't going to take things lying down, though, and responded with great penetration. Walker and Carson Cooper both hit shots in close to push the ‘Cats’ lead down to one, but Buie increased the margin back to three points with more free throws. Michigan State got one more Cooper layup, but that was all they were able to get and the score at halftime was 38-37 Wildcats.
The Spartans went 5-for-9 from downtown in the half but committed eight turnovers. Meanwhile, Northwestern got nine points apiece from Buie and Berry and hit 12 of its 14 free throw attempts.
Following the halftime break, the teams began going bombs-away. Audige started things off with a three-pointer before Hauser responded for the Spartans, but then Buie hit his first shot from beyond the arc of the night to make the lead 44-40.
After Walker committed his fourth foul for Michigan State, Robbie Began hit a pair of free throws to give the ‘Cats their largest lead of the day. With Walker on the bench, the Spartans struggled to get going, and hit just one shot from the 19-minute mark to the 15:38 mark.
Buie continued to attack the Spartan interior with great success. His fourth and fifth free throws of the night put Northwestern up six before Hoggard responded with a floater.
The Spartans started to play with desperation around the 13-minuted mark, with Hauser launching from nearly the logo. He then committed a turnover, leading to another Audige score on the fast break. When Michigan State called timeout with 12 minutes to play, Northwestern found itself with a 52-44 lead.
Hauser was finally able to break a scoring drought of over three minutes with a tough jumper, but Audige taught him some simple math: three is more than two. Audige’s 15th point gave Northwestern a stunning nine point lead with only about 11 minutes to go.
The Spartans continued to claw back, though, hitting a pair of three-pointers from the left corner. Following a powerful dunk by Issoko, the Wildcat lead was cut to just 58-54 with 8:07 to go.
Both teams got locked in defensively, and that score held for over two minutes before Roper hit a tough layup with 5:41 left. Issoko responded with another super slam, but Berry answered with a wild fadeaway to push the lead back to six.
With just four minutes to go, Northwestern led 62-58, but a charge call on Buie for his third foul put Michigan State in the bonus. The 62-58 score held for over three minutes, and neither team appeared willing to break it. That is, until Buie hit a massive floater with 1:47 to go.
Hoggard did his best to respond, getting a tough and-one with under 90 seconds. He then drove in and scored again to cut the lead to 64-63 with just 45 seconds remaining. But Buie was of the belief that he could do better, and he did by converting a leaning layup with just 24 seconds on the clock.
Following a missed Hauser midrange, Buie hit both free throws to seal a 7-for-7 night from the line and the Northwestern win. After some more free throws, Chris Collins had won his seventh Big Ten opener.
The game marks the first time Northwestern has beaten Michigan State in consecutive games since 1962. The Wildcats return to Welsh-Ryan Arena this Sunday, Dec. 11 to take on Prairie View A&M at 1 p.m. CT.