To say it wasn’t the ‘Cats’ day would be an understatement.
Coming in sitting at fourth in the Big Ten, Northwestern (11-5, 3-2 B1G) lost convincingly to the middling Michigan State Spartans (9-8, 3-3 B1G) in East Lansing this Sunday afternoon.
Though it was far from her best game, star Veronica Burton still finished with nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, and six steals, while Laya Hartman and Caileigh Walsh led NU in scoring with 10 points apiece. For Michigan State, it was all Nia Clouden and Matilda Ekh, as those two combined for 37 points and 11 threes in a dominant performance.
After the game began with three straight empty possessions from both sides, Jillian Brown notched a steal and finished it with a layup for the first bucket of the game. This lead lasted all of 16 seconds as Clouden hit threes on back to back possession to put the Spartans on top 6-2.
The ‘Cats’ offense struggled to score throughout the next few minutes, which allowed the Spartans to take a 14-8 lead following a rebound and putback by DeeGee Hagemann.
As we’ve seen all year long, though, when the ‘Cats are struggling, Veronica Burton is the player to turn to, as she got her patented first quarter steal and layup. She followed this up by finding Hartman for a three to cut the Spartan lead to one as the first quarter concluded.
The second quarter began with both teams leaning on their leaders, as Clouden finished a layup, and Burton found Lauryn Satterwhite behind the arc to even the score at 16. This began a barrage of three pointers for both squads, as the next four baskets were all triples, Michigan State and Northwestern each hitting a pair to keep the game even at the under-four timeout.
After the break, both teams came out sloppy, with four fouls and seven turnovers in the final 3:49 of first half play. During this span, Clouden found Tamara Farquhar for a layup, which was matched and then some by Walsh’s second three of the game to put Northwestern up 25-24 with 2:26 remaining.
With both teams seemingly giving the ball to their opponents, it looked as if Northwestern would carry its one point lead into the half, but Ekh had other plans. After the ball was tipped out of bounds with four seconds to play, Clouden entered the game and found Ekh for a buzzer-beating three pointer to put the Spartans up 25-24 at the intermission in East Lansing.
At half, Walsh lead the ‘Cats in scoring with 10, with Burton lit up stat sheet outside of scoring, with four assists, four rebounds and two steals at the break.
The third quarter began with the Spartans making three straight field goals, as Eck knocked down her third three pointer of the game from the corner, which was followed by MSU’s Alissa Smith finding Farquhar for a layup before finishing a layup herself.
On the other side of the ball, Northwestern’s offense opened with three straight turnovers before the ‘Cats were bailed out by a foul that sent Brown to the line where she would make both from the charity stripe. This ended an 11-0 spartan run that dated back to the first half, to make the score 36-27 in the favor of the home team.
Clouden continued her hot shooting from the first half by knocking down her fourth three. and despite Burton picking up another pair of steals, the ‘Cats couldn’t find anything on the offensive end in the half-court.
Laura Satterwhite knocked down a mid range jumper which sparked a bit of momentum for the ‘Cats, as they scored on three of their next four possessions, which included a Burton layup for her second field goal of the game, cutting the lead to single digits, and entering the fourth, Northwestern found themselves trailing the home team by a score of 48-41.
Clouden knocked down yet another three to give the Spartans a double digit lead. After a missed three from Burton, Hartman picked up the offensive rebound and finished the layup for the ‘Cats’ first bucket of the quarter.
Ekh then took over the game for the Spartans by knocking down a top of the key three and then drawing her fourth charge of the game to make it 54-43 Spartans. Northwestern was bailed out on a foul on Melannie Daley’s midrange jumper, as she missed the front end to put the lead back at ten before the ‘Cats began their full court press with 6:35 left in the game.
The press allowed the Northwestern to force four straight empty possessions, however, the team was only able to capitalize on one of those with a Burton layup, failing to cut into the Michigan State lead in any significant way.
The dagger came when Ekh drilled her fifth three for the Spartans, as that put the game out of reach for Northwestern with a 59-46 deficit. In the end, Michigan State pulled away late to fatten up its winning margin and handed Northwestern its fifth loss on the season.
Northwestern will return to Evanston on Thursday to face Penn State at 7:00 p.m. CT.