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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls by 19 at the hands of Michigan State

It was never really close against the green and white.

@nuwbball Twitter

Northwestern was largely uncompetitive in a blowout loss to Michigan State in East Lansing on Wednesday night, losing 91-72. Turnovers killed the ‘Cats early and often, with the team totaling 13.

It was a relatively balanced scoring effort from both teams. Melannie Daley led the way for Northwestern with 18 points, and Hailey Weaver had 15. The Spartans were anchored by a 16-point game from Julia Ayrault and 15 from Theryn Hallock.

The game got off to a slow offensive start until Ayrault and Maggie Pina each rained down threes for their respective teams. From there, Northwestern turned the ball over on five consecutive possessions, leading to ten Michigan State points and an early 13-3 Wildcat deficit before the first media break.

Paige Mott and Caroline Lau both had two turnovers heading into that first timeout. Abby Kimball, Jocelyn Tate and Ayrault each made the ‘Cats pay a few times over their disastrous stretch.

Coming out of the timeout, Caileigh Walsh settled things down with a made bucket, and Daley converted on a fast break after a Jasmine McWilliams steal. The ‘Cats cut the lead to 13-7. The Spartans answered with two consecutive buckets of their own to quickly extend the lead back to 10. Northwestern was able to cut it to 17-11 before Kimball nailed a three for MSU.

Things got (even more) sloppy at around the two-minute mark in the quarter, and both teams started missing shots. Outside of one made free throw from Michigan State’s Tory Ozment, there was no other scoring. The Spartans led 21-11 after the first quarter — a frame in which the ‘Cats turned the ball over a whopping eight times while the Spartans had just two.

Mott was stuffed in the post by Ayrault on Northwestern’s opening possession, which led to a Moira Joiner three and a 24-11 lead. A few lost possessions later, another turnover from Lau resulted in another Joiner three, and the lead grew even further. After another Spartan bucket which stretched it to 29-11, Northwestern turned it over on an offensive five-second violation. It was getting ugly.

Down 20, Mott finally put the ‘Cats on the board in the second, but Deedee Hagemann immediately poured in a three to stretch the lead back to 34-13. The teams traded buckets for a few possessions, Weaver and Mott both scoring for the ‘Cats. The lid was suddenly off the rim for Northwestern, but Lauren Ross knocked down a three before the media timeout to make the score 39-17 Spartans.

McWilliams made two free throws out of the break, but Daley fouled Hagemann shooting a three on the ensuing MSU trip down the floor for a four-point play. Michigan State led 43-19. With the score at 47-21, Weaver nailed a three for the ‘Cats from the wing. Casey Harter scored in the post a few possessions later on an impressive dribble drive to bring the score to 47-26 with under a minute remaining.

Hallock nailed a three on the Spartans’ final possession of the half, but 0.9 seconds remained for Northwestern. The refs ruled that an unnecessary personal foul had occurred on that last possession, and the ‘Cats were awarded two free throws. Pina made both, and Northwestern trailed 50-28 at the half.

Harter and Mott each had six in the opening half, leading the way for the Wildcats. The Spartans had an incredibly balanced scoring output, with five players at seven points each. Ayrault added three assists and two blocks. The story of the half, though, was the turnover battle, which the Spartans led five to 11. Northwestern shooting 35.7% from the field didn’t help either.

Ayrault kicked off the scoring in the second half with a lay-in. Harter got the ‘Cats on the board a few possessions later, but Michigan State’s lead continued to grow. After two three’s from Joiner, and one from Kimball, the Spartans led 61-32. The ‘Cats put the ball through the hoop a few times before the break but still trailed 63-38 with just over four minutes in the third.

After a minute without scoring, the teams traded buckets on six consecutive possessions, and the Spartans led 69-44. Lau scored twice for the ‘Cats during the stretch. Trailing 70-44, Weaver splashed home two three-pointers in a row for NU. Daley scored on the next possession to cut the lead to just 18 at 70-52. Northwestern had gone on an eight-point run to put some pressure (albeit minor) on Michigan State. The lead was 71-52 heading into the final frame.

To start the fourth, the ‘Cats’ brief momentum seemed to evaporate. Free throws from Hallock and a three-ball from Hagemann led to a 76-54 Spartan lead two minutes into the quarter. After more free throws and a Hallock three, the game was completely out of reach at 81-54. From there, Northwestern improved the deficit by a small margin but fell 91-72.

The ‘Cats will return home after a week-long break to take on Penn State (11-5, 2-3 B1G) next Thursday.