Men’s Basketball: Shorthanded Northwestern shocks No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing


Tyler Keim/The Daily Northwestern

Robbie Beran dribbles against Penn State. Beran scored six points in Northwestern’s upset win over No. 10 Michigan State.

Patrick Andres, Sports Editor

A funny thing happened to Northwestern on Saturday after it lost its best player, halftime lead and collective sanity in the closing seconds against No. 10 Michigan State: it won a basketball game.

The Wildcats (9-6, 2-4 Big Ten) stunned the Spartans (14-3, 5-1 Big Ten) 64-62 before a near-capacity crowd of 14,797 in East Lansing, their fifth-ever road win over a team ranked in the AP Top 10. NU beat No. 9 Minnesota, No. 8 St. John’s, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 7 Wisconsin on the road in 1953, 1967, 2009 and 2017, respectively.

“Needless to say, this was a really important win for us after what we’ve been through here the last few games,” coach Chris Collins said. “(We felt) like we were on the doorstep in three of the last four games.”

NU did not make things easy on itself. The Cats frittered away a 46-39 advantage with 15:09 to go before recovering to lead 62-56 with 2:43 left. The Spartans quickly crept back within two points with :59 left, with two free throws from Michigan State forward Julius Marble II representing the last points scored in the ballgame.

After redshirt junior center Ryan Young missed a jumper, Spartans coach Tom Izzo called timeout with 26 seconds left. A wild scrum under the basket ensued, after which Michigan State retained possession on a held ball and called another timeout. 

Spartans forward Malik Hall missed a straightaway three with just four seconds left. While battling for the rebound with junior guard and teammate Boo Buie, junior forward Robbie Beran was whistled for traveling.

Beran proceeded to foul Michigan State forward Marcus Bingham Jr. on the entry, but Bingham Jr. missed the front end of a one-and-one. Freshman guard Julian Roper II — a Detroit native whom the Spartans did not offer — corralled the rebound to secure the victory. 

“I’m just really proud of my team,” Collins said. “We knew we were going to have to play really hard, really tough and together in a really tough atmosphere. If you look at the rebounding, I thought we did a really good job.”

NU played without senior forward Pete Nance, who tweaked his ankle Wednesday against Maryland, and graduate forward Elyjah Williams. The absences forced Collins to vary his lineups, and he struck gold giving extended minutes to Young, who tallied 18 points to go with eight rebounds and two assists.

Even unlikelier sources kept the Cats afloat in the first half. Little-used sophomore center Matthew Nicholson — another Michigan native — set a new career high for minutes by playing 11 in the first half alone, during which he scored all five of his points. Roper II pulled down six rebounds, including the clincher, and freshman guards Brooks Barnhizer and Casey Simmons showed flashes as well.

“Nicholson, a Michigan kid … to put him in the game, in this environment, and for him to come out and give us the minutes he did, I’m so proud of him,” Collins said. “And Julian Roper as well, a local Michigan product … his defense on (Michigan State guard) Max Christie was really integral to the game tonight.”

NU’s win stopped a four-game losing streak ahead of a critical stretch during which the Cats will meet Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan and Illinois in succession.

“We’re going to enjoy it, it’s obviously a big win,” Collins said. “But we’ve got to focus on the next one, because you always have another team coming.”

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