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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo says his team is still going through some growing pains.
There was plenty of evidence of that in Friday's 61-52 home victory over Northwestern.
The Spartans (10-5 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) ran out to a 28-9 lead in the first half, and then allowed Northwestern to cut the lead to seven, 36-29 at halftime.
"We have a lot of growing up to do yet," Izzo said. "That's the way it's going to be with a young team. We play a lot of good minutes of basketball, but when we don't play good minutes, it drops off to poor."
But the Spartans kept the pressure on defense in the second half, as the Wildcats (12-3, 0-2) got to within four points several times, the last at 48-44 with 11:29 remaining, but got no closer.
"I thought it was an old-time Big Ten game tonight," said Northwestern coach Chris Collins, whose team saw a nine-game winning streak end. "It got to be a little bit of a slugfest there, with the pace and the scoring. I thought Michigan State was a little tougher than we were."
The Spartans outrebounded Northwestern 43-27, and Michigan State's Nick Ward, in just 18 minutes, had 11 points and nine rebounds. Forwards Sanjay Lumpkin and Gavin Skelly combined for just seven points while guarding Ward, and both fouled out.
"Ward forced us to play small for a major stretch," Collins said.
Alvin Ellis III scored 16 points and Cassius Winston added 15 for the Spartans, who were coming off a 75-74 overtime win at Minnesota on Tuesday.
"I think we did a great job of rallying together," Ellis said. "Sometimes, when things are going bad, we go away from things that were working and we get in trouble. But I think we did a great job at the end."
Collins said his team ran out of gas while trying to come back from the 19-point deficit.
"You dig a (19) point hole at the Breslin (Center, MSU's home court) and it's hard to fight back," Collins said. "Sometimes you fight back and you have nothing to finish, and I think that was part of it."
It was the third win in a row for the Spartans.
Michigan State shot 42.9 percent from the floor (21 of 49), while hitting just 4 of 17 3-point tries. The Spartans shot just 25 percent (8 of 32) in the second half.
Vic Law had 16 points and nine rebounds while Scottie Lindsey added 11 points for the Wildcats, who went cold down the stretch and shot just 35.8 percent (19 of 53) from the floor.
Northwestern: The Wildcats entered the game having won 19 in a row in the month of December, a streak dating back to 2014. Their nine-game winning streak was the longest in the Big Ten, and hadn't lost since Nov. 22, a 70-66 setback against Notre Dame in the championship game of the Legends Classic in New York.
Michigan State: Tom Izzo, who is third on the all-time list of Big Ten wins, is 19-3 in Big Ten home openers, including 14 wins in the last 15 years.
Izzo wouldn't give a timeline on the return of freshman Miles Bridges, the team's leading scorer who dressed but did not play. He has missed seven games with a high ankle sprain. "He's a special kid," Izzo said, "and I want to give him enough time to recover so that he's around at the end of the season."
Northwestern is home against Minnesota on Jan. 5, the only home game for the Wildcats in their first five Big Ten games. The last time the Wildcats played four of their first five Big Ten games on the road was during the 1955-56 season.
Michigan State is home against Rutgers on Jan. 4.
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