No. 1 Michigan State beats Northeastern 78-58
BOSTON — When Michigan State guard Bryn Forbes got up from the floor after diving for a loose ball, that's when things got really physical.
Teammates greeted him with violent chest bumps, and coach Tom Izzo showed his appreciation by giving Forbes a two-handed shove to the chest.
"He loves diving on the floor. I don't know what it is," Forbes said after the top-ranked Spartans turned around an early deficit to beat Northeastern 78-58 on Saturday. "Hustle plays. Energy plays. That's what he likes."
Denzel Valentine scored 17 points, Forbes added 12 and No. 1 Michigan State matched the best start in school history by improving to 12-0. In their first true road game of the season and Izzo's first visit to the century-old Matthews Arena, the Spartans trailed by five points midway through the first half before recovering.
"We had to get used to it," said Valentine, who added six assists and five rebounds. "It took us a bit, but once we settled in, we started rolling."
The Huskies (7-4) sold out a men's basketball game the first time in two decades but couldn't hold on for their second victory over a ranked team this season.
Zach Stahl scored 18 with seven rebounds and David Walker had 13 with eight assists for Northeastern, which beat then-No. 15 Miami on Nov. 27. The Huskies were the first team to outrebound Michigan State this year, but their bench was outscored 27-5.
"I described them as Noah's Ark," Northeastern coach Bill Coen said. "They've got two of everything."
Built in 1910, Matthews Arena hosted the first games in franchise history for both the Bruins and Celtics along with receptions for Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart and rallies for both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt. More recently, though, it has been more likely to sell out for a hockey game against crosstown rival Boston University than a men's basketball game.
That changed with "Winter Showdown," a weekend that included women's basketball on Friday night, when Michigan State won 77-51. The arena crew was standing by to remove the basketball floor for the hockey teams to meet on Saturday night.
"It was pretty cool," said Forbes, who was heading over to Fenway Park for a dinner with the team before coming back to watch the hockey teams play. "I've never been a part of anything like that. I don't think I've ever even been to a hockey game."
But first, the basketball team had to take care of Northeastern, a task that proved more difficult than expected — for 10 minutes, anyway.
Northeastern led by five, 15-10, with 11 minutes left in the half, but Gavin Schilling had a dunk, Valentine followed with a 3-pointer to tie it and Lourawls "Tum Tum" Nairn Jr. hit a jumper to give the Spartans the lead. Walker's jumper tied it 17-all for Northeastern before Michigan State scored 10 of the next 12 points, and then scored the last five points of the half to take a 34-25 lead into the break.
The Spartans nursed a double-digit lead for much of the second.
Izzo said Forbes' pursuit of the loose ball was a turning point — and a surprising one.
"He'd have been the last guy that's gotten on the floor the last year or so," the coach said. "He's doing more things, and we needed someone to light a match."
Michigan State: The Spartans also opened the 2000-01 season 12-0 before losing to Indiana.
Northeastern: The Huskies beat three ranked teams in the 1985-86 season, when Reggie Lewis led them into The Associated Press Top 25. They then lost 18 straight games against ranked teams before beating the Hurricanes 78-77 on Nov. 27.
Michigan State: Plays Oakland on Tuesday before its Big Ten schedule starts a week later against Iowa.
Northeastern: Hosts Vermont on Tuesday.