EVANSTON, Ill. — At least the first half was fun.
While Northwestern (8-3, 1-1 B1G) was able to jump out to a 33-26 lead, the Wildcats eventually stumbled, ultimately falling to No. 10 Michigan State (12-2, 2-0 B1G) 73-67.
Pete Nance led the way for the ‘Cats, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds. Boo Buie and Chase Audige added 12 points each.
MSU won the tip, but the Spartans were unable to get anything going on their first possession after former-NU target Max Christie missed a three. The Wildcats failed to score on their first possession as well after Robbie Beran’s three-point attempt clanged off the front end of the basket.
The scoring was back and forth early. Christie nailed a three for the Spartans to make the score 5-2, but Beran then added a three of his own. A few plays later, Ty Berry got on the board with threes on back-to-back possessions. At the under-16 media timeout, the Wildcats led 11-7. Both teams looked sloppy early, with multiple traveling violations and errant passes for both sides hindering offensive progress.
Coming out of the timeout, Michigan State went on a short scoring tear after NU pulled four of its five starters, quickly jumping to a 12-11 lead. Just after that, however, Ryan Greer got in on the scoring fun, as he got away with what looked like a travel before nailing a layup high off the glass with three seconds left on the shot clock. He added another bucket two plays later via the mid-range floater. At the second media timeout, Northwestern maintained a 17-14 advantage.
As play resumed, the scoring did not. Young scored again for the ‘Cats to put them up by five, but Bingham Jr. added a dunk on the other end soon after. Following that dunk, both teams went on massive cold streaks, with neither side scoring in the three-and-a-half minutes that followed.
After a short break, Northwestern broke its dry spell when Chase Audige added a layup. A few plays after, Buie found an open Pete Nance behind the arc, who converted, suddenly giving Northwestern a 10-point lead. Bingham Jr. landed a fadeaway jumper to cut NU’s lead to eight, but Young hit an and-one layup on the very next possession to extend the Wildcats’ lead back to 11.
In the final few minutes of the first half, both teams went back and forth scoring-wise. On the last play of the half, the Wildcats were barely even able to get a shot up, leaving their lead at seven heading into the break. Young led all ‘Cats with seven points, while Audige led on the boards with six rebounds.
As the second half began, Christie got to the free throw line and sank both shots, but Buie came right back and hit a tough layup to keep the lead at seven. Christie hit another three to cut NU’s lead to four points, and suddenly, the Spartans had life. Joey Hauser then got his first three of the game to fall, which cut Northwestern’s lead to just one point. Brown sank another jumper for the Spartans, giving them the lead and forcing Chris Collins to call timeout.
Coming out of the break, it was Nance’s turn to score. First, he hit a spot-up jumper to give NU the lead back. On the next possession, he made an and-one layup, but was unable to convert the free throw.
Following the first media timeout of the second half, scoring was once again slow until Buie found Casey Simmons for a half court alley-oop. The next play, Christie landed a SportsCenter Top 10 worthy put back dunk to keep the game within two points. A few possessions later, controversy struck, as Young elbowed Hauser in the head while Hauser guarded him. After an extensive review, a flagrant one was called on Young, but he shot one free throw for the common foul on Hauser.
The flagrant foul seemed to be what MSU needed to take over, as after Hauser hit both free throws, Brown nailed a three to push the Spartans’ lead to four. With just under 11 minutes left, NU’s offense disappeared, and after another break, Brown sank another triple to push MSU’s lead to seven.
The ‘Cats weren’t out of it just yet, though. Audige hit a couple of free throws and then came up with an impressive steal and layup to keep the game within two possessions. One positive of the second half was that with 8:34 remaining, the Wildcats entered the double bonus when Marble fouled Nance. However, Nance missed both of his free throws, resulting in an empty possession. NU finished 20-for-30 from the charity stripe.
Audige continued to have an on-and-off game. He hit a three to force Tom Izzo to take a timeout, but then proceeded to force up a missed jumper after the break. Soon after, he was fouled as he drove to the rim, but made just one of two free throws.
The fouls were constant in the second half. By the end of the game, MSU committed a total of 19 fouls in the final 20, while the ‘Cats finished with 17 second half fouls. Buie tied the game at the free throw line with 5:47 to play.
As time dwindled down, the game remained close and fouls remained constant. The ‘Cats trailed by four with two minutes to go, but two free throws by Young made it a two-point game. An empty possession for MSU gave the Wildcats a chance to tie or take the lead, but Audige whiffed yet again from deep. The next play, Brown hit a contested three to sink the hearts of Northwestern fans everywhere.
Buie went to the line with the Wildcats down five and hit both to make it a three-point game. With 35 seconds left, Greer fouled Christie to stop the clock. Christie made the first but missed the second, and Buie immediately pushed the ball down the court and hit a layup to make it a two-point game.
After the Buie layup, Audige fouled Brown, who sank both free throws. Buie then forced up a three which missed to the left, and Young was forced to foul Hauser. Hauser made both, icing the game.
The Wildcats return to action Wednesday night when they take on Penn State at 8 p.m. CT on Big Ten Network.