Mistakes cost MSU dearly in loss to Northeastern

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — Midway through the second half on Sunday night, it looked like Michigan State was going to pull another game out of the fire.

The Spartans had been getting past mid-majors for the better part of the last couple weeks and doing so without freshman Miles Bridges. And on Sunday against Northeastern, a second-half surge looked like it was going to be enough.

But as quickly as Michigan State took the lead, Northeastern took advantage of crucial MSU misses and hit big shots to turn the game back in its favor and pull away for an 81-73 victory at the Breslin Center.

BOX SCORE: Northeastern 81, Michigan State 73

“Michigan State has a lot of pride and made their run,” Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. “But we have a couple of seniors that settled us down and made some plays and got us back in a groove.”

Northeastern (6-5) was in a groove in the first half and took a 36-32 lead into the locker room after a final-second 3-pointer from Alex Murphy. The Huskies kept rolling to open the second half, pushing their lead to 39-32.

But that’s when Michigan State started rallying, putting together a 19-6 surge to grab a 51-45 lead with just less than 12 minutes to play. The momentum had finally turned toward the Spartans, all they needed to do was put the game away.

Instead, Northeastern’s T.J. Williams hit a buzzer-beating three on the next possession followed by a missed front end of a one-and-one from Cassius Winston and a missed dunk on a lob pass by Kenny Goins. The Huskies took advantage and eventually took the lead, 57-55, on a 3-pointer.

The teams went back and forth and were tied at 59, but Northeastern went on a 12-2 run from there to put the game away.

We’re up six and the shot clock is going down and the guy hit a big three,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “Give Williams credit on that. It was a tough three. … Then we come down and miss a free throw, Cassius missed a one-and-one.

“Tum (Lourawls Nairn Jr.) had a (missed) layup, Kenny (Goins) had the missed dunk and we had three turnovers and that was the game. … Put all that together and we’re not good enough to beat teams when we’re missing dunks, layups and free throws.”

Northeastern buried 11 3-pointers and got 18 points from Murphy and 17 from Williams. Devon Begley scored 16.

“We have the utmost respect for this program and want to compete in this environment and against this level program,” Coen said. “I tell these guys every year that we want to compete against the best the country had to offer. We want to compete against national-championship programs and that’s what Michigan State is and always has been.”

Winston was one bright spot for Michigan State, scoring a career-high 21 points and handing out 10 assists. Nick Ward scored 15 and grabbed seven rebounds while Eron Harris chipped in 11 points.

Michigan State (7-5) had just one lead in the first half when it hit a free throw to go up 1-0 in the first minutes. But it failed to pull ahead again until a 3-pointer from Harris with a little more than 14 minutes to play put it ahead, 45-43. It was part of a 19-6 run that turned a 39-32 deficit into a 51-45 lead with 11:44 to play.

However, Northeastern bounced back and regained the lead at 61-59, an advantage it would not relinquish.

“It was the little plays, the little things,” Winston said. “We’ve got to fix the little things. I think I had a turnover in that stretch, we had a missed dunk. Just little tiny errors. We got to stay tuned in the whole time. That’s wining time. That’s time to grind in and play our best game. We just failed to play our best game in those winning situations.”

MSU goes 2-1

Sunday night’s game was part of a tripleheader between the schools. The women’s teams played earlier in the day with Michigan State winning, 78-44, while Northeastern beat Michigan State in hockey, 6-2.

The teams all squared off last season in Boston.

“I want to thank Coach Izzo and the Athletic Director Mark Hollis and my Athletic Director Peter Roby for putting together this winter showdown idea,” Coen said. “I give Coach Izzo all of the credit. Not too many coaches will take their teams off campus and visit a non-power five opponent on their home court in a non-neutral situation. So, we have the utmost respect for this program and it was such an honor.”

Nonconference slate ending

Michigan State closes out nonconference play on Wednesday at home against Oakland before beginning Big Ten play on Dec. 27 at Minnesota.