Written by Caleb Wojcik
This story is dedicated to Shannon Brown. To score over 1,000 points in one uniform is a special feat, especially now, in the height of players leaving college early for the NBA Draft. Completing the milestone close to his hometown of Chicago was the icing on the cake. Shannon, I applaud you on your success at Michigan State, and I hope you return for your senior year.
Now to the game. On the trip down to Northwestern I was trying to decide if this game was going to be a Michigan State style run and gun score fest, or if Northwesternâ€™s trap defense would control the tempo. Watching this game first hand, I found that both were the case. The game started with high flying break-away dunks by Paul Davis, Marquise Gray and Brown, and six minutes into the game the Spartans were up 11-5.
The rest of the first half showed a slowing in the pace of the game. Northwesternâ€™s Princeton style offense kept the Spartans from getting quick transition baskets. After an altercation on the court and some technical foul shots, the Wildcats were able to fight back to within four points, 33-29, at the half.
In the second half, the Spartans came out firing on all cylinders. A 17-3 run early in the half put State up 50-35 and they cruised to victory. Northwestern wouldnâ€™t come any closer than eight points for the rest of the half. The Spartans escaped with a 77-66 win.
Michigan State out rebounded Northwestern 33 to 21 but had trouble hanging on the ball, giving up 17 turnovers. Both Matt Trannon and Davis fouled out, but without much bench production, the Spartans were carried by Brownâ€™s 22 points, Maurice Agerâ€™s 21, Davisâ€™s 16 and Neitzel added 9.
Northwestern played strong throughout the game, despite some lapses. Vedran Vukusic, the Big Ten leading scorer, put up 23 points while fouling out. The tough Northwestern defense is something that other Big Ten teams need to watch out for the rest of this season and in the Big Ten Tournament. Northwestern is better than their record shows, but that probably wonâ€™t be enough to push them into postseason play.
Michigan State returns home now for the next game against Purdue on the 8th, then they travel to play at Minnesota on the 11th.