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Michigan State’s Alvin Ellis III drives to the basket over Northwestern’s JerShon Cobb.
Men

Spartans turn back Wildcats

– Adreian Payne is surprising even his coach with his recovery from a foot injury.

“It’s amazing,” Michigan State’s Tom Izzo said of his senior star. “Here’s a kid that two or three years ago couldn’t get up and down the floor more than 15-18 minutes a game. Now he’s carrying our team. I’m proud of him.”

Payne had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and No. 9 Michigan State cruised past Northwestern 85-70 on Thursday night to stay tied atop the Big Ten. Izzo can only hope his other injured players come back as well as Payne has. Keith Appling was out again with a wrist problem, and Branden Dawson has an injured hand.

The Spartans (21-4, 10-2) are even in the standings with Michigan. Those two teams meet in Ann Arbor on Feb. 23.

Payne missed about a month with his injury, and in three games since returning, he has scored 56 points. After Thursday’s win, he was looking forward to seeing 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, a young girl fighting cancer whom Payne has become close with. She was seated near the court at the game.

“I haven’t seen her yet, but she’ll be out there in a few minutes,” Payne said. “It’s always good to see her smile that way.”

Payne played one of his better games of the season Thursday, and Gary Harris added 14 points for Michigan State, rebounding a bit from a poor shooting performance in a loss to Wisconsin last weekend. The Spartans shot 53 percent from the field against a Northwestern team that came in with a sterling defensive reputation.

The Wildcats (12-13, 5-7) had not given up 80 points in a game in more than a month.

“We definitely had more breakdowns tonight defensively than I thought we’ve had in the last month,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. “Part of that is them running a really good offense, and part of that were some breakdowns we had that we just haven’t had.”

JerShon Cobb had 22 points and seven rebounds for Northwestern.

Michigan State led 39-30 at halftime, then scored the first seven points of the second half. Payne had a dunk and a 3-pointer in that stretch, and although the Wildcats prevented the game from getting totally out of hand, they weren’t able to cut their deficit back into single digits.

“When healthy, I truly believe they’re the best team in the country,” Collins said. “They’re loaded. I hope they can get healthy.”

Izzo said he’s hoping Appling can come back within a week – and Dawson not long after that.

NO. 18 CREIGHTON 68, BUTLER 63: In Indianapolis, Doug McDermott scored 26 points and made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 47.8 seconds left to lead the Bluejays.

Creighton (20-4, 10-2 Big East) is within a half game of No. 6 Villanova in the conference standings.

Kellen Dunham had 16 points for Butler (12-13, 2-11), which has lost four straight.

No. 21 WISCONSIN 78, MINNESOTA 70: In Madison, Wis., Frank Kaminsky scored 17 points, and Nigel Hayes added 15 to lead the Badgers.

IUPUI 59, DENVER 49: In Indianapolis, Mitch Patton scored 14 points as the Jaguars (6-21, 1-9) picked up their first Summit League win and ended a nine-game losing streak.

No. 13 LOUISVILLE at TEMPLE; No. 23 SMU at RUTGERS, ppd.: The winter storm that continued to wreak havoc in the South and Northeast forced the postponement of two games featuring Top 25 teams. No. 13 Louisville at Temple and No. 23 SMU at Rutgers were rescheduled for tonight.

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