Michigan State eliminates Northwestern from Big Ten tourney

Written By BY STEVE GREENBERG Staff Reporter Posted: 03/14/2014, 05:32pm

INDIANAPOLIS — And so it’s over. Another Northwestern season has come and gone without a postseason flicker.

The Wildcats went down again to Michigan State, 67-51, in Friday’s second round of the Big Ten tournament. In a season with some truly surprising results, well, this wasn’t one of them. Nothing unexpected on that count.

But NU fans will always have Thursday’s first-round upset of Iowa. They’ll always have the stunning victory at Wisconsin, the successful trips to Indiana and Minnesota, the big rivalry W over Illinois and — how did it happen? — the season sweep of Purdue.

Those were the highlights of a 14-19 campaign, Chris Collins’ first as coach. It was just a tiny bit better than the 13-19 mark posted by Collins’ successor, Bill Carmody, in his 13th and final year on the job, but who’s keeping track of such things?

Collins is all about the future, and the future of Northwestern basketball starts (again) now.

A robust class of incoming recruits — St. Rita’s Vic Law the star, along with Johnnie Vassar, Bryant McIntosh, Scott Lindsey and Gavin Skelly — will render much of what we saw of Northwestern here unrecognizable.

All five of those newcomers will play immediately, perhaps more than one of them as starters. At least that’s the hope. One can always hope.

Against the Spartans — seeded third in this event, but right there on the top line in talent and potential — there was no hope for NU. The first half ended with the Wildcats already having been buried, 40-22.

MSU (24-7), which beat the Wildcats 54-40 and 85-70 in earlier games this season, took command early and cruised on the strengths of high-percentage shooting and the usual dominant rebounding. Three games in all — one high-scoring, one low-scoring, the other in between — and still one huge gap between NU and the conference’s power programs.

Brandon Dawson led the Spartans, who’ll face Wisconsin in the semifinals, with 16 points. Gary Harris added 13.

NU’s Drew Crawford led all scorers with 21 points in his final college game. He finishes his career as the school’s all-time leader in games played (143) and started (142), and ranks third in points scored (1,920).

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg

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