Jonah Elkowitz/The Daily Northwestern
After playing just three games in December following the cancellation of matchups against DePaul and Prairie View A&M, Northwestern took the court for the first time in 2022 against No. 10 Michigan State.
Through the opening five minutes of the Wildcats’ Big Ten home opener, NU’s defense held the Spartans to 2-for-8 shooting and forced three turnovers. Following a pair of threes from sophomore guard Ty Berry, the Cats jumped out to an early 11-7 advantage. But just as quickly as NU seemingly took command, Michigan State went on a quick five-point spurt to retake the lead.
Following the Spartan run, senior guard Ryan Greer converted a layup in a sea of green jerseys and then nailed an elbow jumper to give the Cats a 15-12 lead. The two teams traded buckets before the under-12 timeout, with NU ahead 17-14.
Despite the electric start, the game stalled as both teams endured three-minute scoreless droughts heading into the under-eight break. Redshirt junior guard Chase Audige broke NU’s drought with a driving layup and then nailed a pair of free throws to give the Cats a 23-16 lead. A Pete Nance trailing three extended the lead to 10 before Spartan forward Marcus Bingham Jr. canned a 15-footer.
NU’s inspired first half continued into the waning stages. First, a Ryan Young and-1 saw the redshirt junior center draw cheers as the Cats took a 29-18 lead. Then, a pair of consecutive charges drawn by Berry on the defensive end caused an eruption of excitement from the NU bench heading into the under-four timeout.
Michigan State answered with an 8-2 run that chipped away at NU’s lead before the halftime whistle, as the Cats led 33-26.
Basketball is a game of runs and the Spartans reminded the NU faithful of that, taking the lead 36-35 following a 10-2 run out of the intermission. Out of the timeout, Nance announced himself with a 4-0 run to secure a three-point lead for the Cats at the 16-minute mark. NU and the Spartans exchanged moments of offensive brilliance and utter stagnation for the rest of the half as an Audige three-pointer at the 7:55 mark cut the Michigan State lead to 56-53.
The Cats and Michigan State then had a revolving door of opportunities at the free throw line in a half where 36 personal fouls were called. Following a Bingham Jr. and-one, the Spartans held a 65-57. Then, the tidal fortune of foul calls shifted to NU with the Cats going 6-for-8 from the charity stripe, as Michigan State led 65-63 with under two minutes to play. Despite a late push, the Spartans held on to beat NU 73-67.
After owning the Spartans in two previous games, Buie quiet on Sunday
Buie terrorized Michigan State for 26 and 30 points, respectively, in his previous two games against the Spartans, but really struggled Sunday. He converted his first shot attempt of the game — a driving layup — but was scoreless for the rest of the half. He wasn’t able to turn the page in the second half, tallying 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting in a quiet game for NU’s second-leading scorer.
Tale of two halves on the glass
Through 10 games, Northwestern held a thin 4.3 rebounding margin over opponents. You wouldn’t have known it in the first 20 minutes, with the Wildcats outrebounding Michigan State 26-18, including 11 offensive boards that led to four second-chance points. That success did not continue into the second half with the Spartans winning the second half battle on the glass 24-15.
NU defense solid despite loss
The Wildcats entered Sunday’s game allowing 60.8 points per game and that defensive effort was evident in the opening 20 minutes. NU held a Spartans side that shoots 39.6% from three-point range, to 1-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc and 9-for-27 from the field. The Cats also forced nine turnovers and blocked two shots in the first half. However, in the second half, possessions featuring ball watching and late rotations allowed Spartan players — mainly forward Gabe Brown — to shoot 6-for-13 from distance. Still, there’s room for optimism in a game where the NU held its first top-25 opponent to under 40 percent shooting from the field.
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