It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but at the end of the day the No. 4 Michigan State Spartans (16-1, 5-0 Big Ten) found a way to get it done and put away the Northwestern Wildcats (8-10, 1-4) by a score of 54-40.
For much of the first half of the game, the Wildcats gave the Spartans all they could handle, as it was certainly evident Michigan State was missing the services of star big man Adreian Payne, who sat for the second game in a row with a nagging right foot sprain.
This, coupled with the fact that the Spartans just couldn’t get any of their shots to fall, jacking up numerous air balls on their way to just 1 for 11 from downtown in the half, the game had a upset written all over it, as the two teams went into the break with the Spartan’s lead just four, 26-22.
In the second half, in order for the Spartans to be successful, it was clear that someone, in the absence of Payne, would have to step up down low.
And that someone was Alex Gauna.
Gauna, a sparingly used junior forward from Eaton Rapids, Mich., played very well in the increased minutes he saw on Wednesday night, finishing with 8 points on 3 for 4 shooting, all the while grabbing 3 rebounds.
However, other than Gauna’s spirited play for the Spartans, most of everything else was pretty ugly.
But in the end, the team that played the ugliest between the two was Northwestern, as Michigan State managed to pull away in the second half and take the game, 54-40.
Sophomore guard Gary Harris led the Spartans in scoring, finishing with 14 points and 4 steals, while senior point guard Keith Appling added 11 points and 4 assists and junior Branden Dawson, who didn’t start the game Wednesday night due to illness, managed to finish with 6 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Tre Demps was the lone Wildcat in double figures, finishing with 12, while the Michigan State defense held Northwestern’s leading scorer, Drew Crawford, to just 6 points on 1 of 8 shooting.
Moving forward for this Michigan State team, it’s amazing they’ve found a way to start the season off 16-1 with all the injuries and illnesses they’ve been experiencing thus far. It really does make one wonder just how good this MSU basketball team can be once everybody is able to suit up and be out there on the floor
And when that time comes, this team can be special. Because if one thing is clear, it’s that this Michigan State team hasn’t peaked yet. So if they are able to field a complete team come March with head coach Tom Izzo on the sidelines, watch out.