Michigan State returns to the Breslin Center for its Big Ten home opener Friday night against Northwestern. Both teams started conference play with a road win; now, the Spartans have a chance to snap 12-2 Northwestern’s nine-game winning streak.
Michigan State (9-5) has won seven games in a row against the Wildcats dating back to 2011 and has not lost to them at home since 2009. This will be the only regular-season meeting between these two teams.
Against Minnesota, junior point guard Tum Tum Nairn tied a career high with 13 points and senior wing Alvin Ellis III set a career best with 20. Freshman big man Nick Ward is averaging 18.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game in December.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to watch/listen to the Michigan State vs. Northwestern matchup:
Michigan State basketball vs. Northwestern game time, details
Time: 6 p.m. ET tipoff
Date: Friday, Dec. 30
Location: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich.
The line: Michigan State is favored by two points.
Which TV channel is Michigan State basketball vs. Northwestern on?
The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
How can I watch Michigan State basketball vs. Northwestern online?
BTN2Go will stream the game.
How can I listen to Michigan State vs. Northwestern on the radio?
The game can be heard on radio over the 38-affiliate Spartan Sports Network, including flagship stations WMMQ-FM (94.9)/WJIM-AM (1240) in Lansing and WJR-AM (760) in Detroit. It is also on Sirius/XM channel 81.
Who is calling the game for BTN?
Brandon Gaudin will handle play-by-play for BTN with analyst Stephen Bardo. Will Tieman will handle play-by-play with analysts Matt Steigenga and Gus Ganakas on the Spartan Sports Network.
Michigan State basketball vs. Northwestern three keys
Feed the beast
As noted, Nick Ward has rapidly improved. He played a career-high 33 minutes against Minnesota and notched his second career double-double with 22 points and 10 boards. Even when faced with double teams, the youngster has found a way to score over the top. He has zero assists in the past five games, but why pass when he’s shooting 63.2 percent from the field during that stretch?
Michigan State has seldom held a size advantage, even against the minnows of its nonconference schedule, but Ward should have an advantage down low against Northwestern. The Wildcats will likely remain without center Dererk Pardon, putting freshman Barret Benson in the starting lineup. Benson has been prone to foul trouble, averaging a whistle every five minutes he’s in the game.
Set the tone offensively
Since going to a Cassius Winston/Matt McQuaid/Josh Langford/Matt Van Dyk/Nick Ward lineup, the Spartans have gotten just 16 points per game out of starters not named Ward. Van Dyk will never be called upon to score a lot of points, but Winston and Langford have to create for themselves and others, and McQuaid has to knock down shots.
After facing the No. 2 Big Ten team in blocks on Tuesday, Michigan State gets to face off against the top team. Northwestern averages 6.8 blocks per game, and while Ward can have a huge impact, his teammates need to open up the paint by making the Wildcats pay from the outside if weak-side defenders drop down to try to stop him.
Hit some free throws already
Michigan State has hit 60.6 percent of its free throws this season. Not only is that the worst in the Big Ten by far, but it places 341st out of 347 Division I teams. Had the Spartans hit down the stretch against Minnesota, they wouldn’t have had to go to overtime. In the future, the repercussions could be worse. A tossup game could turn into a loss because of the inability to convert freebies.