EAST LANSING, Mich. — Senior forward Adreian Payne scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, and No. 9 Michigan State moved into a first-place tie in the Big Ten with a 85-70 thumping of Northwestern on Thursday night at Breslin Center.
Guard Denzel Valentine contributed 16 points and six assists, and guard Gary Harris scored 14 points for the short-handed Spartans, who are tied with rival Michigan in the standings.
Michigan State (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) was once again without two starters. Point guard Keith Appling missed his third consecutive game with a right wrist injury, and forward Branden Dawson sat out for the sixth consecutive game with a broken right hand.
Point guard Travis Trice chipped in 11 points and six assists for the Spartans, who shot 53.3 percent from the field.
Guard JerShon Cobb tied his season high with 22 points for Northwestern, which failed in its bid for a fourth straight Big Ten road victory. Wildcats forward Drew Crawford and guard Tre Demps added 18 points apiece.
Michigan State opened the second half with seven unanswered points, including five by Payne, for a 46-30 lead. Cobb responded with 10 points in the first 4:08 of the half, but Northwestern never recovered from the Spartans’ early outburst. Michigan State maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way. The teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the Big Ten in scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense entering play, but it didn’t look that way in the first half. Valentine had 11 points and five assists as the Spartans shot 47.1 percent and grabbed a 39-30 halftime lead.
Northwestern (12-13, 5-7) shot 50 percent before the break but was hampered by six turnovers.
The Wildcats wound up shooting 46.2 percent for the game and giving the ball away nine times. The Spartans committed only seven turnovers.
NOTES: The Spartans won for the 46th time in the past 50 meetings. Michigan State won the first matchup this season in Evanston, 54-40. Northwestern’s most recent victory in East Lansing was a 70-63 triumph on Jan. 21, 2009. … Wildcats F Drew Crawford is one of three active Division I players with at least 1,700 points, 600 rebounds and 200 3-point field goals in his career, joining Creighton’s Doug McDermott and South Carolina Upstate’s Torrey Craig. … The Spartans’ 11.3 turnover average is the lowest since Tom Izzo became head coach in 1995. The previous low during the Izzo era was 13.0 in 2011-12. … The Wildcats, who came into the game tied for sixth in the conference standings, finished higher than seventh in the Big Ten only once since the 1969-70 season. Their 8-8 conference record in 2003-04 tied them for fifth place.
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