Men’s Basketball: Slow starts in both halves plague NU in 79-50 loss to No. 14 Michigan State

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

(Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman). Miller Kopp drives the lane. The sophomore forward led the team in scoring Saturday.

Andrew Golden, Sports Editor

The first possession of Northwestern’s game against Michigan State was a warning for how the rest of the game would go.

Off the tip, the Spartans’ Aaron Henry missed a jumper, but they got a second possession after the Wildcats couldn’t secure a rebound. On the next inbound play, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston bricked a three-pointer but the Spartans got another rebound, leading to a foul and an ear full from coach Chris Collins.

Despite NU (6-14, 1-9 Big Ten) having players in place to make the plays, Michigan State (16-5, 8-2 Big Ten) played with a level of assertiveness that the Cats lacked in the team’s 29-point loss.

“Michigan State out-everythinged us right from the jump,” Collins said.

With nothing to lose, NU had the chance to play spoiler on the road, but came out of the gates flat to start both halves. Despite playing solid defense early, the Cats frequently let the Spartans get second possessions off the offensive glass.

In the first six minutes of the game, Michigan State grabbed four offensive rebounds, while NU didn’t get its fourth total rebound until around eight minutes into the game. By the 12:49 mark, the Spartans were out to a 16-2 lead and the Cats seemed to have no answer.

However, for one of the few times in the whole game, NU showed signs of life. For the next five minutes, the Cats was the more physical team and turned the 14-point deficit into a 3-point game.

But that was as close as they would get for the rest of the game.

After a seven-point run to end the first half up 11, Michigan State went on a 13-2 run in the second half to put the game out of reach extremely early in the second half. The Spartans are ranked higher and have a lot of experience than the Cats — but Wednesday’s game was simply about Michigan State wanting it more.

“Their physicality and will came at us early,” Collins said. “Sometimes you have nights like this where you run into teams that are old and tough and they let you know where you need to go.”

The Spartans outrebounded NU by 17, finished with more steals and blocks and forced 15 turnovers. And while the Cats had answers early on, the team had nothing left in the tank in the second.

The players look dejected. Collins had his hands folded across his chest, as he looked at the floor. The team, as they have late in games throughout this season, looked helpless and out of options.

Even in the midst of a season with low expectations, NU has shown a lot of fight before faltering down the stretch. But Wednesday’s performance was a matter of not showing fight for the majority of the game.

Moving forward, the Cats will have to play to a higher level against the top of the Big Ten, in hopes that they will learn and have success in the future

“Hopefully our guys remember next year as we get ready to play these guys,” Collins said. “(Hopefully) you remember your experiences and what it takes to be competitive with a team like this.”

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Twitter: @andrewcgolden

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