The #4 ranked Spartans came in 15-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten and the only thing that changed was a tally in the win column. Even without star C Adreian Payne they took care of the anemic Wildcats 54 to 40.
The game was lethargic and slow and that played right into the Wildcats style of play. MSU Head Coach Tom Izzo said of the tempo, “That was the best defense (Northwestern’s) that I have seen in a long time. I thought they played as well as anybody we have played.”
Frankly it was a boring game to watch prompting me to describe the Northwestern offense as, “Wisconsin East.”
The player of the game may have been Alex Gauna. He didn’t have the most stats, but when he was needed he came through strong. Izzo said of the pride of Eaton Rapids, “I thought Alex did a good job defensively. That was a bright spot for us. Gauna was one of the bright spots. He played with some energy. He knows what he is doing.”
Gauna finished the contest three rebounds and eight points, but most importantly was his defense. He told me, “I think that is where you get minutes is on the defensive side. I have put a lot of hard work into improving that.”
Izzo said of his Spartans that, “We have a good team not playing good now. I think that for a variety of reason.”
The Spartans for stretches ignored the paint, at one point air balling back to back three point shots. Izzo said of the anemic inside game, “We air balled six shots. I don’t think we’ve had six air balls all season. We counted six.”
Keith Appling reinjured his right shoulder. You may remember he hurt it last year. He told me after the game that it was a, “Sub lux.” The shoulder partially popped out, but not fully.
Harris led the way for the Spartans with 14 points and six boards. He also had two assists and four steals. Appling had 11 points, four assists and five rebounds as the only other Spartan to record double digit points.
The Spartans did improve in the turnover category. They had seven compared to the Wildcats 12. The Spartan defense in this boring battle was suffocating. Northwestern shot just 28%. The Spartans hit 39% but were an abysmal 12% from three hitting 2 of 16. MSU also won the rebounding total 39-35.
But a win is a win and this team seems to be one of destiny. 16-1 and 5-0 in the Big Ten having played NINE different starting lineups according to Izzo should have people in the Spartan Nation excited and not bemoaning the success.
The Spartans next game will be at Illinois on Saturday. That game is an 8PM tipoff.