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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls 77-72 to Michigan State

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The Wildcats fought valiantly, but failed to convert on its opportunity for every B1G team to begin the conference season 1-1.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern (5-5, 0-2) put up a strong fight against Michigan State (8-3, 4-1) in its Big Ten home opener, but ultimately it was not enough to overcome a fifteenth ranked Spartans team. The ‘Cats fell 77-72 in a game where they battled, but the better team prevailed.

The Wildcats showed flashes of an exciting young team, but the Spartans were too much to handle. Boo Buie and Cassius Winston were the story of the night, and while Winston secured the victory for Sparty, Buie had the best game of his career, instilling hope in the Wildcat faithful.

The freshman guard finished with 26 points and knocked down five three pointers. On the other side, Winston finished with 21 points and hit two three pointers. Pete Nance was a key contributor offensively with 14 points, but no other ‘Cats entered double digits in scoring.

NU fell behind quickly as MSU jumped out to an 8-0 lead within a couple minutes. Roughly 3.5 minutes into the game, Anthony Gaines hit a tough jumper to put the Wildcats on the scoreboard.

Gaines’ jumper could not ignite Northwestern’s stagnant offense as the Spartans raced out to an 18-8 lead at the under-12 media timeout. Over the next four minutes, Welsh-Ryan arena became lively and Chris Collins’ squad did not fold. A.J. Turner and Buie each hit a three pointer, and Northwestern only trailed by three at the under-eight media timeout.

The Spartans responded to Northwestern’s run with nine unanswered points that sapped all of NU’s momentum. With the Wildcats trailing 32-20, the Spartans were primed to end the first half on a tear. NU stopped MSU’s run by utilizing a switch to a zone, cutting the Spartan deficit to 10 at the half. The Wildcats were fortunate to only be down ten points, as Sparty missed a host of open shots from beyond the arc to close out the half.

Early in the second half, Northwestern and MSU continued their sloppy play. MSU led by 14 and remained in firm control of the game at the first media timeout of the second half, but Northwestern came out of the timeout firing.

Buie drilled two deep three pointers and NU cut Sparty’s lead to six. The reinvigorated Wildcats forced a timeout from Tom Izzo, which calmed the Spartans. MSU scored in its next two possessions, but Buie was not deterred. He matched MSU’s baskets with another three pointer and tough floater. The Spartans scored the next five points and held a 10-point lead with 10 minutes remaining in the second half.

Over the next few minutes, Northwestern and MSU continued to trade baskets. The Wildcats refused to go away and challenged the Spartans in the closing minutes of the game. With 1:30 remaining in the second half, Buie hit his fifth three pointer of the night to cut NU’s deficit to six points.

Northwestern stopped MSU on the defensive end and Nance scored on the next possession to make it a four point game with 47 seconds remaining. But it was too little too late, as the Spartans were able to kill the game.

The schedule will not become much easier for the Wildcats. The team will take a break from Big Ten action and travel into the heart of Chicago on Saturday night to face Depaul.