Northwestern coach Chris Collins wants his team to take a step forward this year after struggling last season.
It’s early yet, but the Wildcats made quite a statement Sunday night.
Boo Buie scored a career-high 30 points and Northwestern beat Michigan State for the first time in almost a decade, holding off the No. 4 Spartans for a 79-65 victory.
Pete Nance added 15 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in Northwestern’s biggest win since its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2017. Freshman Ty Berry had 12 points in the Big Ten opener for each school, including three of the Wildcats’ 10 3-pointers.
“One of the more inept performances of my 26 years,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s kind of a harsh statement. I’m blaming myself. I’m the one that has to have my team ready.”
Northwestern (4-1) stopped a 12-game slide in the series with its first victory over Michigan State since Jan. 14, 2012. It also was the Wildcats’ first win over a top-five team in the AP poll since an 83-65 victory over Magic Johnson and then-No. 4 Michigan State on Jan. 27, 1979.
Coming off a frustrating 8-23 campaign that included just three wins in the Big Ten, it was a night to savor for Buie, Nance and the rest of the Wildcats who learned some tough lessons last season.
“We’re trying to change the narrative on what everybody thinks about us, that we can’t finish, all this stuff,” Nance said. “We’re just a really tight-knit group, and we just love playing together and being out there with each other.”
The Spartans looked rusty in their first game in a week and just their second overall since Dec. 6. They were supposed to play Virginia on Dec. 9, but that game was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Cavaliers.
Aaron Henry scored 11 points for Michigan State (6-1), and Malik Hall finished with 10 points and nine boards. The Spartans shot just 39% (26-for-67) from the field.
Michigan State also had a scare when starting forward Joey Hauser left late in the first half with a left knee injury. But he returned early in the second half and finished with five points on 2-for-7 shooting. Northwestern led by as many as 21 at 61-40 with 11:57 left.
Michigan State responded with a 9-0 run, including a three-point play by Henry, but Berry steadied the Wildcats with a 3 with 8:47 remaining. Buie hit four foul shots and a 3 in the final two minutes to help close it out. The sophomore guard went 9-for-15 from the field, including a 5-for-6 performance from beyond the arc.
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