Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, March 14, 2014

Healthy again, Michigan State toppled Northwestern, 67-51, on Friday night in the Big Ten tourney quarterfinals. The win marked the third-seeded Spartans? third win over the Wildcats this season. Get Tom Dienhart's instant reaction to the game in this post.


Key moment: With less than two minutes left in the first half, Travis Trice made a nice pass to Matt Costello, who finished with authority to give Michigan State a 35-20 edge. Then, after a Northwestern turnover, Denzel Valentine made a behind-the-back dish to Costello, who laid in the ball and was fouled intentionally. He made one of two freebies to give the Spartans a 38-20 lead with 49 seconds to go in the first half. MSU was off and away toward a blowout victory. The Spartans needed a confidence-building win like that after going 5-7 down the stretch. Despite the loss, Northwestern has much to build on under Chris Collins, who avoided the cellar and won a Big Ten tourney game with a limited roster that lacked depth. The guy can coach.

Key player: Had to be impressed with Branden Dawson, who looks to be ready for March after missing extensive time with a broken hand. He hit 8-of-12 shots for a team-high 16 points with nine rebounds. Welcome back, big fella!

Key shot: Less than a minute into the second half, Adreian Payne drained a three-pointer. That gave the Spartans a 43-22 lead with 19:26 left in the half. A big man draining bombs always is demoralizing and sent a message of what was ahead in the second half.

Key number: 40, rebounds for Michigan State. NU had only 24. That dominance on the glass played a role in the Spartans outscoring the Wildcats 32-20 in the paint. MSU also notched 21 points off turnovers, had 20 second-chance points and 17 fast-break points. Bottom line: The Spartans dominated from the time they got off the bus vs. an overmatched Northwestern club.

Up next: The Spartans will take on No. 2 Wisconsin for the right to play in the Big Ten title game. The teams met just once this season with the Badgers winning 60-58 at home.

About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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