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Jan. 31, 1998

Spartans Escape with Overtime Win at Northwestern

Game Statistics

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) - After the best game of his college career, Mateen Cleaves smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said he did nothing special.

Everyone who witnessed the Michigan State guard's 34-point, nine-assist, six-steal performance Saturday night disagreed.

"The game really came down to a great performance by one player," Northwestern coach Kevin O'Neill said after his team fell 72-66 in overtime to the 22nd-ranked Spartans. "Mateen Cleaves is the real deal. Single-handedly, he beat us. He's better man-on-man than anybody we've got."

Mateen Cleaves
Mateen Cleaves exploded for 32 points after halftime. (File Photo)

Cleaves scored 32 of his points after halftime, including nine in overtime, as Michigan State (15-4, 8-1 Big Ten) won its sixth consecutive game to remain alone atop the conference standings. The Spartans matched their best Big Ten start ever.

"That's my job. That's my role. If something's not going right, I have to step up," said Cleaves, who went 6-of-10 from 3-point range. "I'm not doing anything extra."

Spartans coach Tom Izzo said Cleaves does something extra just about every game - but this was even more than that for the sophomore.

"Mateen, after a shaky start, bounced back and played like I knew he could. In fact, he did above what I thought he could," Izzo said. "Great teams need a guy that can take over, a guy they can go to in the clutch."

Evan Eschmeyer had 30 points and 14 rebounds for Northwestern (8-10, 1-7), which has lost 21 of its last 22 games to Michigan State. The Wildcats' last victory over a ranked team was against Michigan in the final regular-season game of 1993-94.

"I don't think we caved," O'Neill said. "I thought we had the game won."

They did - until Cleaves lofted a driving bank shot over the 6-foot-11 Eschmeyer with 9.5 seconds left in regulation to make it 55-55.

A.J. Granger hit his only basket of the game, an 18-foot jumper, to start overtime and the Spartans led the rest of the way. After Morris Peterson hit a 3-pointer for a five-point lead, Cleaves scored the Spartans' next nine points to keep them comfortably ahead.

Northwestern lost despite shooting 53 percent against the team that entered the game leading the Big Ten in field-goal defense (39 percent). The Spartans forced 22 turnovers.

Eschmeyer scored the first six points of the second half as Northwestern took a 32-25 lead before Cleaves made three consecutive 3-pointers to put the Spartans up 34-32.

"Coach got in my face at halftime and let me know I wasn't doing the job," said Cleaves, who was 1-for-6 from the floor in the first half. "I made that first (3-pointer) and I had that feeling. I just wanted to keep shooting it."

Cleaves made a running, underhand 5-footer for a 47-45 lead with 7 1/2 minutes left in regulation. Sean Wink's 3-pointer put Northwestern back ahead. After Cleaves fed Peterson for a layup, Eschmeyer made a layup and a free throw to give Northwestern a 51-49 lead with 5:37 to go.

Two free throws by Cleaves tied it and Charlie Bell followed with two foul shots to give Michigan State a 53-51 lead with 2:40 left in regulation.

Eschmeyer hit a free throw to pull Northwestern within a point before Wink's 3-pointer with 19.9 seconds remaining put the Wildcats ahead 55-53.

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