EAST LANSING, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- Alvin Ellis swished a three-pointer. Russell Byrd got a steal. Matt Costello executed a quick spin move and drove for a layup.
What it all means later is anyone's guess. For now, Michigan State is needing more from its role players and getting it. And Thursday's 85-70 win over Northwestern at Breslin Center was one of the most efficient and equitable offensive performances of the Spartans' season.
No. 9 MSU (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) got eight points or more from six different players, shooting 53.3 % from the floor with just seven turnovers to move back into a tie with Michigan atop the league standings.
The Spartans' regulars did their share – Adreian Payne had 20 points and 14 rebounds, Denzel Valentine scored a career-high 16 points and Gary Harris had 14 – and for the third straight game, junior Travis Trice ran the offense with senior point guard Keith Appling (sprained right wrist) out.
Also for the third straight game, Trice did not commit a turnover, and he contributed 11 points and six assists to an offensive effort that made up for the Spartans' uninspired defensive night.
Four weeks and a day after MSU plowed through a 54-40 win at Northwestern, the Wildcats (12-13, 5-7) had much more shot-creating and shot-making success in a game that was more visually pleasing than billed.
JerShon Cobb scored 22 points, and Tre Demps and Drew Crawford each had 18 for Northwestern, which shot 46.2% from the floor.
The Wildcats could not overcome MSU's 11-for-21 night from three-point range – in the first meeting, the Spartans were 2-for-16.
Branden Dawson (broken hand) also sat out for MSU, his sixth straight game on the bench. He is expected to get the pins out of his hand next week and his status will be re-evaluated after that.