Spartans get first Big Ten win 66-45 over NU

In a game that Coach Tom Izzo called a must win for his team, Michigan State came out flat early but recovered quickly to cruise to a 66-45 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night at the Breslin Center.

EAST LANSING - In a game that Coach Tom Izzo called a must win for his team, Michigan State came out flat early but recovered quickly to cruise to a 66-45 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday night at the Breslin Center.

Drew Neitzel scored 18 points and Marquise Gray had a perfect night, going 7-for-7 from the field on his way to 16 points but knew that MSU still isn't playing Spartans basketball.

"We've been struggling a little bit. We didn't play our best game, we went through some adversity but we hung in there and pulled it out in the end."

The Spartans (14-4, 1-2) started the game out flat, turning the ball over on their first five possessions giving the Wildcats (10-6, 0-3) an early lead.

"I don't think that it was beautiful, but it was definitely a better performance after the first five minutes," said Izzo.

"We must have had five or six turnovers, and I thought all in all we still are a little out of sync, which is understandable with the lineups in there sometimes. We got to run a little bit, that was kind of enjoyable. We got to sub a little bit, and that was great," he added.

Gray came back and energized the crowd and his teammates with a steal that led to a massive breakaway slam for the Spartans first basket of the game.

The basket sparked two 9-0 runs by the Spartans in the first half to break open the game to 23-11. MSU led at halftime, 32-22 and saw their lead shrink to 32-27 to start the second half.

After that point, MSU went on yet another run, this time going on a 12-3 run to increase their lead to 16 points at 46-30 with 13:10 remaining.

The Spartans got back to their rebounding ways, dominating the Wildcats on the boards, 37-13. Drew Naymick led MSU with six rebounds while four others grabbed five apiece.

Vince Scott scored 11 points for the Wildcats, who have dropped their first three games to open conference play.

In a matchup of the top two defenses in the Big Ten, Michigan State scored 66 points on a Wildcat team that only gives up 55.9 point per game to their opponent. Michigan State proved to be the better defense on the night, holding the Wildcats to only 46 points on 36 percent shooting on the night.

"I thought we executed at times, and that's a tough defense," said Izzo.

"To me, a 20-point win on Northwestern is like a 40-point win, because they are very disciplined, they run their offense very patiently, and that defense is hard to crack when they go to that 1-3-1.

It's difficult, and early we looked like the "Bad News Bears" against that thing. After we got going, I think we attacked it pretty well," added Izzo.

After dropping its first two conference game on the road, MSU benefited from their home crowd at the Breslin Center, where they are now 12-0 this season.

The Spartans hope they keep their home streak going on Sunday afternoon against Illinois, another team who started out 0-2 in Big Ten play but has bounced back with a win at home.


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