Men’s Basketball: Northwestern shocks No. 4 Michigan State in Big Ten opener


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Boo Buie dribbles against Ohio State. The sophomore guard’s 30 points against Michigan State were a career high.

Patrick Andres, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Basketball

Dominating Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Chicago State and Quincy, as Northwestern did in non-conference play, is one thing. Dominating No. 4 Michigan State is quite another.

But on Sunday, the Wildcats did just that. In a 79-65 victory, NU outplayed the Spartans and picked up their first win over an AP Top 5 team since Jan. 27, 1979.

“Winning is very, very hard at this level,” coach Chris Collins said after the Wildcats’ first victory in a Big Ten opener since December 2017. “When you put together 40 minutes like this and find a way to win, I want our guys to enjoy it.”

The win — NU’s first over Michigan State since 2012 — snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Spartans and followed a non-conference schedule that saw the Cats putting up a succession of impressive stats, like an average of 93.2 points and a rank among the nation’s most efficient offensive teams.

NU replicated its offensive success in Sunday’s upset, shooting 27-for-51 (.529) from the field and a sterling 10-for-21 (.476) from three-point range.

“I would love for (our early offensive prowess) to sustain,” Collins said. “The reality is, there are nights in the Big Ten where you’re gonna shoot it well, and there are nights that turn into grinders. You gotta learn how to win multiple different types of games.”

As has been the case throughout the young season, NU received help from up and down the roster. In particular, sophomore guard Boo Buie tallied a career-high 30 points, and freshman guard Ty Berry added 12 points and three three-pointers off the bench.

Berry, a budding provider of instant offense off the bench who Buie said after the game “was like a little brother,” made four of his five field goals in 20 minutes of action. Redshirt junior guard Anthony Gaines hit his only two shot attempts including a critical layup late, and junior forward Pete Nance put up a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

“I wasn’t putting a lot into the game (last year), and I ended up not getting very much back,” Nance said. “I’ve been working, coming in every night trying to get extra reps in, and I knew it was gonna pay off for me eventually.”

Even though nine Cats scored in all, Buie was the catalyst, sinking five three-pointers to tie a career-high set against the Spartans in his freshman season and then again in February against Rutgers. When Michigan State narrowed an early NU advantage to 28-23 in the first half, Buie hit a three off an assist from Nance, and immediately followed up a Spartan miss with another three to stretch the Cats’ lead to 11.

NU never led by fewer than nine points after that and increased its lead to as many as 21 points midway through the second half before some late Michigan State buckets created the final margin of 14.

“Our team is really well-rounded. I think we have a bunch of guys who can all dribble, pass and shoot,” Buie said. “We just go out, play as hard as we can, listen to the coaches, and we lock in. Whoever’s night it is, we just try to get them the ball.”

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