Rapid Recap: Michigan State 61, Northwestern 52

Bryant+McIntosh+plays+defense.+The+junior+guard%27s+slump+continued+against+the+Spartans.

Daily file photo by Zach Laurence

Bryant McIntosh plays defense. The junior guard's slump continued against the Spartans.

Max Schuman, Digital Projects Editor


Men’s Basketball


Riding a nine-game winning streak into Friday’s game against a young, unusually vulnerable Michigan State squad, Northwestern had a chance to assert itself as a bona fide Big Ten contender.

The Wildcats (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten) couldn’t seize the chance, though, as they struggled from the field against the Spartans’ (10-5, 2-0) athletic defense and never found the run they needed to take the lead, ultimately falling 61-52.

NU got off to a slow start offensively, as Michigan State blitzed the Cats in transition and sprinted out to a 28-9 lead in just under 13 minutes. With turnover issues in the halfcourt and its big men in foul trouble, NU looked set for a long night in East Lansing.

But the Cats chipped away at the lead by turning to the 3-point shot. Junior guard Scottie Lindsey and senior forward Nathan Taphorn led the way as NU hit 6-of-12 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, and a long pull-up jumper from junior guard Bryant McIntosh right before halftime cut the Spartans’ lead to 36-29.

The scoring pace slowed even more in the second half of the physical conference game, and NU put up just eight points in the final 11:29 in the game. Sophomore forward Vic Law played well, scoring 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting, but as a whole the Cats shot just 35.8 percent on the night and never got in a second-half rhythm.

That left the team without enough firepower to overtake Michigan State despite keeping things close late, and ultimately doomed NU to its lowest point total of the season in the defeat.

Takeaways

1. The Wildcats’ backcourt comes up short

After putting up 31 points in Tuesday’s win over Penn State, Lindsey struggled in this game, scoring 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting. His poor performance coincided with another disappointing showing by McIntosh, who has struggled for much of the season. Without much in the scoring and playmaking department from the backcourt, NU had little chance of jump-starting its offense down the stretch.

2. Foul trouble hits NU hard

Both freshman center Barret Benson and junior forward Gavin Skelly took their fourth fouls before the under-16 timeout in the second half, and Skelly fouled out with 6:10 remaining, forcing NU to turn to Taphorn and fellow senior Sanjay Lumpkin inside for large parts of the game.

Although the duo battled hard against Spartans forward Nick Ward in their time on the floor, the Cats lacked an interior presence on offense as they sputtered in the second half, a reminder of how thin the team is due to injury.

3. An opportunity missed

It’s still early in the season, but NU’s performance through non-conference play means that the team should have an eye on its tournament resume. A road game against a respected program like Michigan State — even with star freshman Miles Bridges sidelined with injury — is the kind of win the team didn’t have last season, when the Cats failed to secure an NCAA Tournament bid despite winning 20 games.

With the Big Ten seemingly weaker than in seasons past, NU can’t afford to let chances like this slip if it wants to break through to a tournament berth.

Stats

– Finishing 3-of-11 from the floor, McIntosh shot below 40 percent for the 10th time this season
– Skelly has now fouled out in three of his last five contests
– McIntosh needs just seven more assists to become the Cats’ all-time leader in the category

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Twitter: @maxschuman28

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