Keith Appling missed his third straight game for Michigan State, but the point guard's absence didn't stop the Spartans from rolling Northwestern in East Lansing, 85-70. The Wildcats were overmatched by another dominant performance from Adreian Payne, who scored 20 points and plucked 14 rebounds.
This was Payne's third game back after missing seven games with an injured foot. The big man has come back strong, making six of his 11 field goals in this game and 20 of 36 since returning.
With Appling out, Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine took turns handling the ball. Each recorded six assists and combined to turn the ball over just once. Leading scorer Gary Harris notched just 14 points, but had an efficient 6-for-13 shooting day that included a pair of triples.
In a rare feat, only five Northwestern players got on the board. JerShon Cobb led the way with 22, including five three-pointers in 11 attempts. Tre Demps and Drew Crawford added 18 each, but it wasn't enough to stay competitive with a more balanced Michigan State team.
With the win, the Spartans have re-established a tie atop the Big Ten standings with Michigan, who sit at 10-2. Michigan State plays two more games between now and its meeting with the Wolverines on Feb. 23, while Michigan plays just one. When their final meeting is over, one team is guaranteed to hold a lead in the standings. You know, because of math.
Doug McDermott drops 26 as Creighton holds off Butler on the road, 68-63
Wooden Award Watch has been pretty awful this season, mostly because McDermott has been so great. The senior hit 11 of his 19 field-goal attempts, and Creighton needed every single one of them. Butler, just 2-10 in the Big East entering the game, came to play on their home floor. The Bulldogs hit nine threes and equaled the Bluejays on the boards, holding a lead heading in to the final minute.
But McDermott chose a perfect time for his 11th bucket, draining a three to put Creighton up for good. Austin Chatman sealed the deal with four free-throws down the stretch as Butler was forced to foul in order to extend the game. Creighton has won five of six, trailing Villanova by only half a game in the Big East standings. The Bluejays rematch the Wildcats on Sunday, having annihilated them in Philly on Jan. 20.
Wisconsin holds court against Minnesota behind Ben Brust's 20 points, 78-70
The Badgers have won three straight, no easy feat in the Big Ten this season. This win comes at the expense of Minnesota, who is desperately trying to build an NCAA Tournament resume. The Golden Gophers entered the day on Joe Lundardi of ESPN's "Last Four In", but have now fallen to 5-7 in conference play.
Brust and Kaminsky were the stars for Wisconsin, as each guy scored above his season average. This included frequent trips to the free-throw line, where Kaminsky was 9-of-9 on the day and Brust was 6-of-8. The Badgers as a whole shot 36 free-throws, hitting 30 of them. Wisconsin hopes to keep the magic alive, going on the road to face Michigan and Iowa over the next nine days.
No. 13 Louisville vs. Temple, PPD
No. 23 Rutgers vs. SMU, PPD
Both of these games were postponed due to inclement weather in the Northeast. The games will be played Friday at 6 p.m. ET at their regularly scheduled venues.