EVANSTON, Ill. — Michigan State built its 15-game winning streak on solid, consistent play and an ability to defend an array of teams and approaches.
The sixth-ranked Spartans matched up Saturday against a style they couldn't contain.
Northwestern stars John Shurna and Drew Crawford got their points and their shots, but what really hurt Michigan State was the play of backup center Davide Curletti, who made his first start of the season and the second of his career.
Curletti had a season-high 17 points and six rebounds, and his hustle helped the Wildcats pull off an important victory for their NCAA resume, 81-74 over the Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten).
"Curletti was the difference in the game, if you ask me," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, 26-4 against the Wildcats (12-5, 2-3) in his career. "I thought he played extremely well and outplayed our centers, and that's something we've been pretty solid on lately."
Izzo was worried about his younger players and how they would handle Northwestern's Princeton-style offense with its array of picks and cuts as the shot clock was running down.
He didn't expect the Wildcats to get such a lift from Curletti.
"It is fun when you play well like that," said Curletti, who also had four assists. "Helping other guys is a great feeling, especially for us."
NO. 1 SYRACUSE 78, PROVIDENCE 55: Dion Waiters had 12 points, seven during a decisive first-half run, and the host Orange (19-0, 6-0 Big East) matched the best start in school history, set in 1999-2000.
NO. 2 KENTUCKY 65, TENN. 62: Darius Miller hit two free throws and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist one in the final 20 seconds for the visiting Wildcats (17-1, 3-0 SEC), who trailed by as many eight, took a 62-54 lead with 53 seconds left, then held on.
NO. 4 BAYLOR 106, OKLA. ST. 65: Perry Jones had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Pierre Jackson scored 18 and made five of the season-high 15 3-pointers by the host Bears (17-0, 4-0 Big 12).
NO. 9 MISSOURI 84, TEXAS 73: Phil Pressey had 18 points, including seven straight to rescue the host Tigers (16-1, 3-1 Big 12) after the Longhorns got within five in the second half.
NO. 10 KANSAS 82, IOWA ST. 73: Tyshawn Taylor scored 22 of his career-high 28 after halftime, and the host Jayhawks (14-3, 4-0 Big 12) rallied with a 30-9 second-half burst en route to their seventh straight victory.
NO. 22 SAN DIEGO ST. 69, NO. 12 UNLV 67: Jamaal Franklin made an off-balance layup with .3 seconds left to lift the Aztecs (15-2) over the Runnin' Rebels (16-3) in a Mountain West opener.
IOWA 75, NO. 13 MICHIGAN 59: Matt Gatens scored 19 as the host Hawkeyes used balanced offense and stout defense to upset the Wolverines (14-4, 4-2 Big Ten).
NO. 14 L'VILLE 76, DEPAUL 59: Russ Smith scored 25, Chris Smith added 20 and the Cardinals (14-4, 2-3 Big East) avoided their first three-game home losing streak in 11 years.
NO. 15 MURRAY ST. 82, TENN. TECH 74: Donte Poole had a career-high 28 points for the host Racers (18-0, 6-0 OVC), who broke their school-record winning streak set in 2009-10.
NO. 17 UCONN 67, NOTRE DAME 53: Shabazz Napier scored 16 and freshman Andre Drummond had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Huskies (14-3, 4-2 Big East), who snapped the Fighting Irish's 29-game home winning streak.
OKLA. 82, NO. 18 KANSAS ST. 73: Andrew Fitzgerald scored 21 to lead four players in double figures for the host Sooners, who forced the Wildcats (12-4, 1-3) into 19 turnovers and got their first Big 12 win under coach Lon Kruger.
NO. 20 MISS. ST. 56, 'BAMA 52: Arnett Moultrie had 25 points and 13 rebounds for the host Bulldogs (15-3, 2-1 SEC), who had missed all 14 3-pointers until Dee Bost hit three crucial 3s in the final minutes.
NO. 21 GONZAGA 62, LMU 58: Elias Harris had 19 points and Gary Bell 16 for the visiting Bulldogs (14-3, 4-1 WCC), who pulled away early in the second half against Loyola-Marymount to avoid a second straight upset.
NO. 25 MARQUETTE 62, PITT 57: Darius Johnson-Odom scored 18 as the host Golden Eagles (14-4, 3-2 Big East) handed the Panthers their sixth straight loss.
MARSHALL 65, UCF 64: DeAndre Kane made two free throws with 14 seconds left to lift the host Thundering Herd over the Knights (13-4, 3-1) in a battle of Conference USA unbeatens. UCF's Marcus Jordan missed a layup with three seconds left.
NOVA SE 55, TAMPA 52: The host Spartans (4-10, 0-6 Sunshine State) led at halftime for the first time this season but faded.
ECKERD 78, P.B. ATLANTIC 47: Darrien Mack scored 20 in 21 minutes for the host Tritons (10-4), who have won five of six.
SAINT LEO 60, ROLLINS 57: Dominick Robinson sank a three-pointer with .6 seconds left to lift the host Lions (8-6, 2-2 SSC).