Rapid Recap: Michigan State 65, Northwestern 46


Joshua Hoffman/The Daily Northwestern

Jillian Brown on the court against Wisconsin-Parkside. Northwestern’s offense struggled in the second half against Michigan State on Sunday.

MaryKate Anderson, Reporter

After Northwestern’s men’s basketball team upset No. 10 Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday, the women’s squad looked to follow suit in their clash against the Spartans on Sunday.

The Wildcats (11-3, 3-2 Big Ten) ultimately fell against the Spartans (9-8, 3-3) 65-46 in what proved to be a defense-heavy game. The two teams were originally scheduled to meet in Evanston on Jan. 3, but that contest was postponed due to COVID-19 cases within NU’s program.

Both teams struggled to find the basket early in the first quarter until a steal and quick layup by freshman guard Jillian Brown. But after those floodgates opened, they gave way for Michigan State as well. Two quick threes by Michigan State’s Nia Clouden — the second highest scorer in the Big Ten — gave the Spartans their first lead of the game in a pattern that would continue through the half. 

The Cats struggled to control possessions through the rest of the first quarter, but never fell behind by more than six points. After a nearly four-minute scoring drought filled with missed shots and rebound opportunities, NU rallied with five unanswered points in the last 43 seconds to close out the first quarter behind 14-13. 

The second quarter was more of the same back-and-forth, with Northwestern finally finding their groove behind the arc. Every second quarter point for the Cats came from graduate guard Lauryn Satterwhite and freshman forward Caileigh Walsh, both hitting two threes. Senior forward Coutney Shaw proved herself as the third-best rebounder in the Big Ten, tallying four boards in the second quarter alone. 

The Cats finally found their first lead with a three-point jumper from Walsh with 2:26 left in the half. But ultimately NU left the court on a sour note after the Spartans’ Matilda Ekh hit a buzzer-beating three and took back the 27-25 lead heading into halftime. 

Ekh’s three-pointer began what would become a 17-4 run that continued through the third quarter. As the third quarter continued, the game appeared to slowly fall away from the Cats. The squad’s offense was unable to match Michigan State’s impressive third quarter shooting — the Spartans shot 53.3% from the field and 50.0% from behind the arc — and, after a 6-0 run to end the quarter, found itself down 48-41 with ten minutes to play.

The fourth quarter proved more of the same. NU turned the ball over eight times on several bad passes and offensive fouls. Michigan State continued to drain threes and find lanes in the paint. The Cats’ offense fell cold, able to tally only five points, and failed to find any momentum that would be necessary for a comeback.

NU returns to Evanston on Thursday night to take on Penn State. 


  • Cats struggle to contain Ekh

Matilda Ekh combined with Clouden for 37 points on Sunday as NU was unable to control Ekh’s clutch three-point shooting — all 18 of the freshman’s point came from beyond the arc. She closed out the first half with one and opened the second half with another. Just when it felt like the Cats had a chance to go on a run, Ekh came up big with a three, a steal, or one of her five drawn offensive fouls and ultimately stopped any NU momentum from building. 

  • In a battle of the defenses, NU unable to come out on top

Northwestern’s defense props them up in Big Ten play, with the team averaging 19.1 forced turnovers per game.  And, while they were able to force 15 Michigan State turnovers with ten steals, the Wildcats found themselves in a rare spot on the other side of a defensive fight. The Spartan defense rattled the Cats and ultimately forced 21 NU turnovers — the Cats’ average is 14.2 — and repeatedly injured NU beyond repair. 

  • Veronica Burton has an off day 

Senior guard Veronica Burton, the leading scorer for Northwestern this season, averages 18.0 points per game. But Sunday proved a different story, with Burton tallying only two points in the first half and nine by the end of the game. While her scoring was not as exceptional as fans have become accustomed to, Burton’s presence was certainly still felt. The reigning two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year had six steals, plus five assists and eight rebounds, but it was ultimately not enough to take down the Spartans.

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Twitter: @mkeileen

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