Northeastern Huskies

No. 1 Michigan State rebounds from slow start to beat Northeastern

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No. 1 Michigan State’s trip to Boston to take on Northeastern wasn’t expected to be an easy one, as the Huskies are an experienced and talented group that picked up a win at No. 15 Miami earlier this season. And that’s how things played out at the start, with Bill Coen’s team dominating the boards and controlling the tempo.

But after a sloppy first ten minutes Tom Izzo’s team played at the level one would expect of the nation’s best team, going on to win 78-58 in a game shown on NBCSN.

At one point in the first half Northeastern had more offensive rebounds (nine) than Michigan State had total rebounds (five), with Zach Stahl and Kwesi Akabah proving particularly difficult for the Spartans to keep off the glass. But once Michigan State’s front court managed to complete defensive possessions with a rebound the Spartans were able to get out in the open floor and increase the game’s tempo, turning a tight game into a comfortable victory by game’s end.

Denzel Valentine accounted for 17 points, five rebounds and six assists, and by game’s end Michigan State finished with more second chance points than Northeastern (14-13). Add in 14 points off of 12 Northeastern turnovers, and Michigan State moved one win (12-0) closer to producing the best start in program history. Offensively the Spartans shot nearly 56 percent from the field and had three players reach double figures, with Bryn Forbes (12 points) and Tum Tum Nairn (11) joining Valentine.

Also of note for Michigan State was the return of forward Gavin Schilling, who missed the first 11 games due to injury. Schilling played just 11 minutes, producing four points and three rebounds, but he was the team’s best big man during their summer trip to Italy and his return gives the Spartans another option to call upon inside. That will be key for them moving forward, as he’ll join a rotation that includes fellow veteran Matt Costello and freshmen Deyonta Davis and Kenny Goins.

Michigan State’s first-shot defense was very good Saturday afternoon, as Northeastern shot just 37.3 percent from the field with David Walker scoring 13 points on 5-for-15 shooting. But the game didn’t change in their favor until the Spartans got back to cleaning up the defensive glass as they had in the 11 games prior, and that attention to detail will be key as Michigan State plays games of even greater magnitude later in the season.

WATCH LIVE: No. 1 Michigan State travels to Northeastern on NBCSN

Michigan State's Denzel Valentine (45) brings the ball upcourt against Florida's Dorian Finney-Smith during the closing moments of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
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One of Saturday’s most interesting games will be featured on NBCSN and the NBC Sports Live Extra app in a 12:30 p.m. ET tip as Michigan State, the No. 1 team in the country, will head up to Beantown to take on Northeastern in a true road game. How often does that happen? The game is part of another cool event that Spartan AD Mark Hollis dreamed up, as Michigan State will be playing a triple-header in men’s hoops, women’s hoops and hockey against the Huskies.

The Spartans (11-0) are led by triple-double threat Denzel Valentine while Northeastern (7-3) will rely on the scoring capabilities of guard David Walker.

CLICK HERE to watch this game on NBC Sports Live Extra Saturday afternoon.

CAA semifinal win moves Northeastern one step closer to first NCAA appearance since 1991 (VIDEO)

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Monday’s CAA tournament title game will match two teams desperately looking to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. While William & Mary’s drought has been much-publicized, as they’ve never played in the NCAA tournament, Northeastern’s looking to end a drought of more than two decades. Sunday evening Bill Coen’s Huskies beat UNCW 78-71 to advance to the title game, and a win over the Tribe would result in their first NCAA tournament trip since 1991.

Forward Scott Eatherton, a first team all-CAA selection, led the way with 21 points while also grabbing five rebounds and blocking three shots. Just as important for Northeastern was the 33 points they received from reserves, as Devon Begley, Caleb Donnelly and Reggie Spencer scored 11 points apiece. Starting guard David Walker also scored 11 points for Northeastern, and he also contributed eight rebounds and five assists.

UNCW’s Jordan Talley led three Seahawks in double figures with 18 points, with fellow guards Craig Ponder (17 points, five rebounds, three assists) and Addison Spruill (12 points, four rebounds) being the other double-digit scorers. Monday’s title game begins at 7:00 p.m. and can be seen on NBCSN.