East Lansing, MI– Michigan State (21-4, 10-2) playing without starting point guard Keith Appling and starting power forward Branden Dawson played their most efficient offensive game of the season defeating the up and coming Wildcats 85-70. Michigan State got eight or more points from six different players, shot 54 percent from the field with just seven turnovers to tie Michigan at the top of the Big Ten standings.
Northwestern (12-13, 5-7) hung tough most of the first half and only trailed by one, 23-22 with nine minutes to play in the first half when Senior guard JerShon Cobb nailed one of his five three pointers. But the Spartans would respond with an 8-0 run and finished the half up 39-30.
With two starters sidelined Michigan State looked to senior center Adreian Payne to lead the way in the second half. Payne scored 12 of his game high 20 points in the second half as the Spartans were never again threatened by the Wildcats. Since returning to the lineup three games ago (out with sprained right foot), Payne once again looks like a lottery pick. Payne is a monster on the glass at 6’10 with a 7’4 wingspan, he can post up or step out behind the arc and knock down three’s.
“Payne is as good as any front line player we’ve played all year long,” said Northwestern first year head coach Chris Collins. Payne finished with 14 rebounds and three assists to go along with his 20 points. Sophomore guard Denzel Valentine added a career high 16 points for the # 9-ranked Spartans.
Northwestern was lead by Cobb with 22 points and senior shooting guard Drew Crawford contributed 18 points to go along with seven assists. The Spartans next play host to Nebraska on Sunday, February 16th while Northwestern will host Minnesota on the 16th as well.
Derek LeFevre is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.