Men’s Basketball: Northwestern blows 27-point lead, loses to Michigan State


Daily file photo by David Lee

Vic Law drives on a defender.

Joseph Wilkinson, Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

ROSEMONT — Scottie Lindsey hit a 30-foot 3-pointer. Vic Law stood at midcourt, hyping up the crowd like he owned the place. Northwestern was up 20-6. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo took a timeout. It didn’t matter. The Wildcats went on another run to extend the lead to 27 points. They took a 49-27 lead into halftime.

And then disaster struck.

The No. 2 Spartans (26-3, 14-2 Big Ten) held NU (15-13, 6-9) to 11 points in the entire second half on their way to the biggest comeback in Big Ten basketball history, a 65-60 road victory.

At one point, the Cats’ offense, which was without senior point guard Bryant McIntosh and junior guard Jordan Ash, missed 17 consecutive field goal attempts and went 11 minutes without scoring a single point.

“I’m just disappointed for the guys,” coach Chris Collins said. “Our effort was worthy of winning. I thought we did a lot of good things, and we just came up short.”

The first half performance was full of those “good things.” NU shot over 60 percent from the field, went 8-for-13 from 3-point range, committed only one turnover, had 12 assists and held Michigan State to 33 percent shooting.

Law, a junior forward who led the team with 21 points, and senior guard Lindsey each hit NBA-range 3-pointers. Freshman guard Anthony Gaines, making his first career start, played the entire opening frame, swarmed Michigan State’s guards on defense and put up 8 points.

“We knocked Michigan State back,” Law said. “That first half we played with an energy that was relentless, and when you play like that good things happen.”

Unfortunately for the hosts, they also had to play the second half.

Things started inauspiciously enough, as NU held on to a 53-35 lead with under 15 minutes left. The Cats were battling foul trouble — junior center Pardon picked up his fourth with over 14 minutes left, sophomore center Barret Benson had three in the first half and senior forward Gavin Skelly ended up fouling out — but they still held an 18-point advantage in the second half against a team with only three losses all season.

And then Michigan State’s Josh Langford hit a three. And then Cassius Winston hit a three and a jumper. And then Matt McQuaid hit a three. Collins called a timeout, trying to slow things down. The Cats’ lead had been cut to 7 points.

“What I was trying to do is give our guys confidence,” Collins said. “I’ve been in basketball for … a long, long time, and you know that happens at times. What I was just trying to do is relax the guys. … Everybody knows it’s not going well.”

But that timeout didn’t help. Miles Bridges made a jumper, then Winston splashed another 3-pointer. Nick Ward made a layup, and suddenly it was a tie game. When Jaren Jackson Jr. finished an and-one over Pardon with over five minutes left, it was all but over for the Cats.

NU had allowed a 24-0 run. While the visitors shot over 54 percent from deep in the second half, the Cats went 3-for-26, committing six turnovers and sorely missing their senior point guard.

Law, who lit the arena on fire in the first half, missed his first seven shots in the second and was limited to a single, relatively meaningless, 3-pointer with 11 seconds left to cut the Spartans lead to 3.

Even after that disastrous display of basketball, Izzo still thought the second-ranked Spartans were lucky to walk away with a win.

“We needed the win, don’t get me wrong, but they deserved to win,” Izzo said. “They outplayed us for two-thirds of that game in every fashion. … For us, you’ve got to win a game like this once in a while.”

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