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Ward scores 21, No. 8 Michigan State tops Northwestern 81-55

Northwestern v Michigan State

EAST LANSING, MI - JANUARY 02: Nick Ward #44 of the Michigan State Spartans handles the ball while defended by Barret Benson #25 of the Northwestern Wildcats in the first half at Breslin Center on January 2, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Nick Ward scored all 21 of his points in the first half to help No. 8 Michigan State build a big lead and it went on to beat Northwestern 81-55 Wednesday night.

The Spartans (12-2, 3-0 Big Ten) have won seven straight this season and 10 consecutive games against the Wildcats. Northwestern (9-5, 0-3) had won three of four, losing only to No. 23 Oklahoma in overtime.

Michigan State made up for the loss of shooting guard Joshua Langford, who missed the game with an injured left ankle, with five players scoring in double figures. Cassius Winston had 13 points and matched a career high with 12 assists while Xavier Tillman equaled his career high with 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Kyle Ahrens scored 11 points, and Matt McQuaid added 10.

Northwestern’s Derek Pardon scored 19 points and didn’t have much help offensively as the only player in double digits on his team. Vic Law, who entered the game averaging a team-high 18.9 points for the Wildcats, had just five points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Ward was 9 of 14 from the field and 3 of 6 from the line in the first half, scoring 21 points to lift the Spartans to a 52-32 lead at halftime. They closed the half with a 26-8 run.

Ward missed both of his shots in the second half and didn’t score.

He didn’t have to contribute more offensively because his teammates didn’t have any trouble keeping the team’s comfortable cushion.

Northwestern coach Chris Collins called his last two timeouts early in the second half -- 41 seconds after halftime and 4:30 into the half -- trying to slow down the Spartans.

It didn’t work.

Michigan State led by 30-plus points at times in the second half and coasted to an easy victory.


Northwestern: The Wildcats may need to get their confidence back after getting routed following closely contested setbacks in Big Ten play and having a recent run of success, losing only to the Sooners. Northwestern lost by just two points to then-No. 5 Michigan, by two points at Indiana and by seven in overtime against Oklahoma in December.

Michigan State: The Spartans showed they can overcome missing a key player. Langford, who averages 15 points a game, missed the game with an injured right ankle. Ahrens started in his place and scored 11 points, his highest total since he had a career high 15 points in a loss to Louisville in November.


Northwestern: Hosts Illinois (4-9, 0-2) on Sunday.

Michigan State: Plays at No. 14 Ohio State (12-1, 2-0) on Saturday in a matchup of teams without a conference loss.


More AP college basketball: and