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Women’s Basketball: Michigan State overcomes Welsh-Ryan to trip up Northwestern

Senior+forward+Kendall+Hackney+rises+for+a+shot.+The+Wildcats+offense+pushed+the+Spartans%27+defense+on+Thursday%2C+but+not+could+close+out+the+game.
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Women’s Basketball: Michigan State overcomes Welsh-Ryan to trip up Northwestern

Senior forward Kendall Hackney rises for a shot. The Wildcats offense pushed the Spartans' defense on Thursday, but not could close out the game.

Senior forward Kendall Hackney rises for a shot. The Wildcats offense pushed the Spartans' defense on Thursday, but not could close out the game.

Josh Walfish/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior forward Kendall Hackney rises for a shot. The Wildcats offense pushed the Spartans' defense on Thursday, but not could close out the game.

Josh Walfish/Daily Senior Staffer

Josh Walfish/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior forward Kendall Hackney rises for a shot. The Wildcats offense pushed the Spartans' defense on Thursday, but not could close out the game.

Ariel Yong, Reporter

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The Wildcats outplayed the Spartans for all but seven minutes.

Northwestern (10-11, 2-6 Big Ten) battled Michigan State (17-4, 5-3) in a hard-fought game that went down to the wire but fell 67-62. The last time MSU came into NU territory was almost a year ago, when the Spartans trounced the Cats by 19 points. This year, however, told a much different story.

“We played really hard tonight against probably the best defensive team in the league,” coach Joe McKeown said. “The team’s been in and out of the top 20 this year. It was a terrific game. I’m really proud of our effort. We had some breakdowns late in the game, and Michigan State took advantage.”

The teams traded baskets down the stretch, and at times, the Cats looked rattled. With just more than seven minutes left in the game, McKeown ripped his jacket off and NU was called for a technical foul on “bench decorum.” After that, MSU went off on an 11-2 run.

“I felt like I hurt our team with a technical foul at a bad point,” McKeown said. “So I’ll take the hit for that.”

The Cats put the pressure on the Spartans with a full-court press that helped them cut their deficit down to only 5 with just under two minutes left. NU struggled at the line down the stretch but continued to play hard and force MSU turnovers. The team finished with 9 total steals.

Freshman forward Lauren Douglas hit a 3-pointer with 13.1 seconds left to pull the Cats within three points. However, on the inbound pass, senior forward Kendall Hackney fouled MSU’s Klarissa Bell, who drained both free throws to seal the win for the Spartans.

Freshman forward Maggie Lyon picked up right where she left off against Indiana, hitting a 3-pointer in just the first 14 seconds of Thursday’s game. Senior center Dannielle Diamant and Lyon hit the first 10 points for the Cats. MSU had no answer as NU jumped out to a 10-0 lead.

“Our players, I thought, were ready to play tonight,” McKeown said. “Offensively, we shared the ball. I felt like we executed, especially in the first half.”

NU had the height advantage to shut down MSU’s inside game and rendered the Spartans scoreless in the first four minutes, limiting them to only 3 total shots. The Spartans’ tallest starter, Jasmine Hines, is 6’3 compared to Diamant, who is 6’5, and Kiana Johnson is a generous 5’7 compared to 5’10 Karly Roser. The Cats recorded 5 first-half blocks and held the Spartans to only 8 points in the paint.

The Cats did a good job of getting their hands in the passing lanes and deflecting the ball, causing the Spartans to turn the ball over in five of their first six possessions.

“I thought we did a good job in transition,” Roser said. “We focused on that a lot in practice on stopping their guards because they’re quick, and they like to go all the way, coast to coast.”

However, MSU picked up the tempo in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Despite the Cats’ early run, the Spartans crawled their way back into the game and forced 13 NU turnovers. The Cats threw some sloppy passes inside, allowing the Spartans to score 11 points off the NU turnovers.

“(The Spartans) are probably one of the most aggressive teams,” Diamant said. “One that we’ve faced all year but two just in the Big Ten in general. They’ve always been like that as well. They box out. They go hard to the basket.”

However, the Cats attacked the basket and knocked down foul shots, shooting 72.7 percent from the line. NU kept the game close and only trailed MSU by at most 3 points, largely due to their hot shooting. The Cats went 50 percent from the field and an impressive 80 percent from the arc, giving them a 32-26 lead into halftime.

Lyon started the second half much like the first with a quick layup to extend the Cats’ lead to 8. However, after two quick NU turnovers, the Spartans slowly began to erase their first-half deficit. NU hung on to its halftime lead until about six minutes into the half when MSU’s Annalise Pickrel hit a deep 3 to give the Spartans the lead, 42-41.

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