by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Northwestern followed up one of its best shooting performances of the season with a solid first half on offense. But in the second period, it was back to their old ways and they fell to Michigan State, 54-45, on Wednesday night.
“Tough, hard fought game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We got in foul trouble and couldn’t score in the middle of the second half and that’s when they made a run to turn the game around.”
The Wildcats seemingly had the game in hand with a 10-point lead in the first half and their characteristically strong defense holding the Spartans to a 31.3 shooting percentage.
With five minutes left in the half, Michigan State (20-6, 8-5 Big Ten) made a push tie the game at 24, aided by a three-pointer, steal, block, and jumper by Michigan State’s Jasmine Thomas. The senior guard also played a large role in the Spartan’s 67-62 win over the Cats on Jan. 31.
Michigan State went into the locker room with a 27-25 advantage, their first lead since first 30 seconds of the game.
The teams traded blows to start the second period, with neither team gaining more than a two point advantage until midway through the half when Annalise Pickrel hit a three to put the Spartans up by four. The Cats missed six of their next seven shots as Michigan State built a 13-point lead.
NU (12-4, 4-9) never came closer than seven points for the remainder of the game.
“Our shots just weren’t falling in the second half,” senior Dannielle Diamant said. “We weren’t boxing out on defense and we didn’t get as many shots as we got in the first half.”
The Cats did hold the Spartans to 32.2 percent shooting, nearly eight percent lower than their season average.
The difference in the game was the Cats’ offense, which shot 44 percent in the first half but only 30.8 in the second.
NU returns home to face Wisconsin (11-15, 3-10) on Saturday.
“We’ve been a really resilient team whether it’s what we have going on with our team itself or basketball-wise,” Diamant said. “I feel confident that we’re going to come out and play well on Saturday.”