31 January 2010

Recap: Michigan State 79 Northwestern 70

Northwestern was able to dictate the pace of play during the first half. But Coach Izzo decided to take advantage of the mismatches inside early in the second half that proved decisive. With the victory Michigan State (19-3, 9-0 Big Ten) kept its strangle hold on the Big Ten. Meanwhile Northwestern (14-6, 3-6) survived its brutal first half stretch to conference play and kept its dreams alive for the NCAAs.

The first half was much to Northwestern's liking. The tempo was slow, and Michigan State was unable to get out and run. Furthermore Michigan State hoisted an uncharacteristic number of threes which is just what Northwestern had hoped to happen. Net result: a 30-28 MSU lead that even could have been a slight NU lead had Jeremy Nash not missed the front end of a one-and-one nor fouled a MSU shooter as their shot clock wound down.

The second half was a completely different game. Michigan State succeeded in getting the ball on the blocks where they could a) use their superior athleticism, b) get offensive rebounds, and c) get Mirkovic his fourth foul. In fact the rebound part didn't really happen as MSU shot a blistering 75% in the second half.

At the same time MSU ratcheted up the defensive pressure, and NU wilted under the pressure save for a gamely John Shurna. To NU's credit the game never got completely out of hand, and Northwestern managed to cut it to two possessions in the last couple of minutes. MSU put the game on ice with solid free throw shooting.

NU had three players in double figures with John Shurna once again leading the way. This time his 31 point total set another career high and demonstrated just how good this young sophomore is already. Jeremy Nash was quiet most of the game but was able to get into double figures with some late bombs. Drew Crawford also tallied double figures, but it was another inefficient effort the frosh.

Lastly we want to give a quick shout out to Mike Capocci for providing some solid minutes off the bench. It is ironic that he couldn't see significant game action until playing our best opponent, but it makes sense that he played given he's one of the few players on NU's roster who match up physically with the Spartans.