The Breslin Center
East Lansing, MI
The Spartans were led by Nick Ward who had 21 points and seven rebounds. Xavier Tillman had 14 points and eight rebounds. Kenny Goins was stellar with eight points and 12 rebounds and Cassius Winston had 13 points and 12 assists. Matt McQuaid had 10 points and five rebounds and finally, Kyle Ahrens had 11 points to round out the guys with double-digit points or rebounds.
Tom Izzo said, “You know it’s hard for me to know what to say except that after a little bit of a sluggish start when they shot well. I’ve seen their team a lot on film. I love their team. They did not play as well. I thought the first half, the foul trouble really hurt them. Maybe we had a little more depth, although, without Josh, it was a big worry for us. I give my staff credit, I thought this was a tough prep. Northwestern does a lot of great things and Chris (Collins) has done a heck of a job with them. And all of a sudden, that game got out of hand. And the second half, I thought after the first five minutes we played poorly. Now did we play the score, did my couple guys get out of sync a little bit. The turnovers, nine of em’, 10 of em’, 11 of em’ in the second half was disappointing. And then Nick having a career night, and I felt bad for him because I had to take him out. It was getting so crazy in there I thought it was, being honest with you, getting out of control and this time I don’t think it was his fault. And because of that, I couldn’t take a chance on an altercation and lose him for the next game. But in the first half, he played as good and solid offensively, defensively as I’ve seen him play. Cassius (Winston) let the game come to him still ended up with a double-double. I was pleased about that. We got a lot out of those wings you know. Kyle (Ahrens) played decent at times, missed some good shots. (Matt) McQuaid played I think better. We got Aaron Henry in there and he did a pretty good job. And Gabe (Brown) struggled a little bit but considering it was his first time of really doing some things, pretty good job by him. Foster (Loyer) played pretty well too. So that wasn’t the Northwestern team that I’ve seen, they’re better than that. It was just a bad night for them, and yet I thought there was about a 16-minute point in the first half that Michigan State played as good as its played this year.”
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins has a very good team. So was the blowout loss a testimony to how good the Spartans are, or was it an off night for the Cats? I asked him and he said, “I think it is always both. I think a lot of times as a coach you think about the things that you didn’t do and you get disappointed. You also have to understand that you are playing against a very good team that makes you do some things poorly at times. I thought the speed at which they play had us on our heels a little bit. In the first half, I thought they did a very good job of getting a really deep position. Being able to establish the paint, whether that was with a layup, with the post-ups or transition. That helped set the tone and get us in foul trouble. I think a little bit of both… it wasn’t our finest hour but I think a lot of it has to do with how good Michigan State is, especially on this home floor. It is a very difficult place to play.”
Tom Izzo added of the game, “Yeah you know I like where we’re at. I mean I like the way we practiced this week. It’s a grind over Christmas cause you try to have two-a-days, where you have meetings and there’s nothing to do and you’re just constantly with the guys, and days are long and boy they handled it really well. I was really pleased about that. I thought my staff did; they are a hard team to prepare for. They run a lot of good stuff and Chris is gonna be one of the young and up and coming coaches in our profession, and it just happened that tonight was our night. Now I don’t think we’re as good as you saw tonight either so let’s not get any lures of grand for that. We’re ready to conquer the world because we played really well at times, but it seems like when things start going south, and I told Cassius, and I’ll say it publicly that, you know that’s one of the things he has to do. He has to grab the team by the reigns. Josh (Langford) was trying to do that from the bench. I just thought that once it went south a little bit, all of a sudden the turnovers started and this and that. So we still have got some growing up to do, but we’re defending pretty well, we’re rebounding pretty well, we’re still running pretty well, I didn’t think we ran as well tonight, but I give Northwestern credit on that. They got back pretty well and it looks like fast break points we ran better than I thought, but you know me I’m never happy so I guess I might as well continue the new year what I did with the old year.”
Collins added of the tilt that, “They are very good. What makes them good is that they understand their roles. They have a terrific point guard in Cassius and a dominant big man in Ward. All of those other guys do what they do really well. I am a big fan of (Kenny) Goins. I think what he brings to the team… you guys who cover them probably give him the praise he deserves… he is really a glue guy. He can pass, rebound, he is a facilitator, he can make a shot. You also have veteran wings with (Matt) McQuaid, (Kyle) Ahrens, and (Joshua) Langford when he is healthy. (Xavier) Tillman has really emerged as a really good option for them off the bench. They are developing their young kids so they have all of the pieces. When you have a veteran point guard who is elite, when you have a dominant big man, and then veterans around them that know what they are supposed to do and a team that is well connected and well coached as they are, they can play with anyone in the country… no doubt in my mind.”
The Spartans shot 59% from the field including 42% from the three. The Spartans shot a horrible 53% from the free throw line and had 28 assists on 34 baskets.
The Spartans led the battle of the boards 48-25. Unfortunately, the Spartans only had 14 turnovers. The Spartans had an astounding 52 points in the paint compared to Northwestern scoring 55 (Total) for the entire game.
Izzo played 16 players including all five freshmen. It was a dominating performance against a very good Wildcat team and was easily the most impressive win of the season so far.
The Spartans return to Big Ten action against Ohio State on Saturday. The tilt tips off at 12: 00 PM and that game can be seen on FOX.
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