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Rapid Reaction: Wildcats hold off Spartans 63-60

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These teams battled down to the wire.

Despite a second-half surge from the Spartans, Northwestern (11-3, 9-3 B1G) battled in the final minutes for a quality win over Michigan State (10-5, 5-5 B1G) on the road. The Wildcat guards followed up their stellar showing against No. 11 Ohio State by leading their team to a 63-60 victory on Sunday afternoon.

Per usual, the Wildcat backcourt ran the show. Lindsey Pulliam led the team with 22 points and six rebounds, but Veronica Burton trailed close behind with 19, including 14-of-17 from the free throw line. Sydney Wood and Jordan Hamilton rounded out the backcourt scoring, adding eight points each.

The Wildcats opened the matchup strong and jumped out to a 9-2 lead behind five early points from Burton. She and Pulliam then delivered back-to-back threes to extend the lead to 17-4 with under four minutes to play. The Spartans answered with a three of their own, but the 19-7 Wildcat advantage remained after the first 10 minutes.

As the second quarter began, Northwestern seemed to answer every Michigan State bucket with two of its own. The Wildcats extended their lead to 28-12 with only four players contributing to the scoring total. NU ended the half with a 9-0 run over a four-minute MSU drought that gave them a 37-18 lead at the half.

The Wildcats faced another rough third quarter in which they were outscored 24-13. They only had one made field goal in the first eight minutes of the frame and only three total in the 10-minute period. MSU opened the half scoring eight straight, which cut the lead to 11. Another 6-0 Spartan run midway through got the lead down to as much as eight. After some back-and-forth, the 50-42 point advantage remained heading into the final period.

Michigan State continued to chip away at the Wildcat lead into the fourth, as Nia Clouden started to heat up at the right time. With just under seven minutes to play, a Clouden three cut the lead to 53-50, and Pulliam left for the bench with an apparent injury at the worst possible time. Shortly after, Wood fouled out, leaving the Wildcats especially short-handed with Paige Mott and Burton also playing with four fouls. Kaylah Rainey and Anna Morris were given the nod in the final minutes, but with 4:30 left, Michigan State tied it up at 56.

Pulliam re-entered the game, but the Spartans gained their first lead of the game 58-56, capitalizing off a four-and-a-half minute Northwestern field goal drought. But the senior All-American, limping on the court, hit a crucial mid-range jumper to regain the 59-58 lead, and four straight points from Burton gave NU a four-point advantage with under a minute remaining.

The Spartans had one final opportunity to tie it up with 8.6 seconds remaining and got two open looks, neither of which fell, sealing the narrow victory for NU.

Taiyier Parks ran the show on the Michigan State side with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Nia Clouden added 12, 10 of which came in the second half.

The Wildcats return home on Thursday to face Arella Guirantes and Rutgers for the first time this season after their last matchup was postponed due to COVID-19.