Jan. 15, 2014
By Callie Counsellor
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Coming off of its first Big Ten win of the season against Illinois, Northwestern looked poised for another upset, but No. 4 Michigan State improved its rebounding in the second half and held off the Wildcats, 54-40.
"I couldn't be prouder of how our guys played tonight," NU head coach Chris Collins said. "Sometimes you play really well, and the other team just plays better."
Neither team could find much rhythm on the offensive end, with the Spartans shooting slightly better at 38.5 percent compared to the Cats 28.3 percent. NU was particularly hindered by 12 turnovers, including seven in the second half.
The Cats and Spartans went back and forth to start the game, with four lead changes and six ties in the first 20 minutes. Neither team led by more than four points before halftime.
NU put the pressure on early on both ends of the court. JerShon Cobb led the effort with five straight points to give the Cats a one-point lead, 7-6. Following the first media timeout, Sanjay Lumpkin knocked down a three-pointer for the NU's first multi-point lead of the game.
Michigan State scored on two straight possessions and hit a free throw to regain the lead, but Tre Demps hit a basket, the Spartans committed a foul, and Nate Taphorn nailed a three-pointer to regain a four-point lead.
With eight minutes left in the half, Michigan State found some rhythm, scoring eight straight points while NU struggled from the field. The Cats shot just 30 percent on field goals in the first period.
Alex Olah ended the Spartans' streak with bucket, and Lumpkin drew a huge charge at the other end of the court to regain some momentum for NU. Cobb, who led the team with eight points in the first half, hit a long three pointer to tie the game at 20 with just under five minutes before halftime.
Michigan State scored the final four points of the half to take a 26-22 lead into the locker room.
NU controlled the boards in the first half, leading the rebounding battle 19-17, including 7-5 on the offensive end.
Michigan State came out shooting in the second half and was able to maintain a safe lead for most of period, thanks to some improved rebounding, including nine offensive boards.
The Spartans started the second half with four straight points and NU began the period with a turnover. However, Lumpkin came up with an athletic block at the other end, followed by a jumper from Kale Abrahamson from well beyond the three-point line and the Cats cut the Spartans' lead to three.
Demps, who finished as the leading scorer with 12 points, was able to give the Cats a chance with 10 points and a steal in the second half, but NU couldn't contain Michigan State's Gary Harris down the stretch. Harris, who finished as the Spartans' leading scorer with 14 points, grabbed a defensive rebound with just under six minutes left and drew a foul, and the ensuing free throws gave the Spartans their first double-digit lead of the night.
The Cats only managed to score three more points for the rest of the game, all on free throws.
"We're having a hard time getting in easy baskets," Collins said. "We have to be opportunistic. If we get a rebound, if we get a steal, we have to try to get out there and get a layup or two."
Senior Drew Crawford, who struggled with only one basket from the field, said, despite the loss, he can see progress from the team.
"It's always frustrating to lose, but I think we're on the verge of going somewhere now," he said.
NU travels to Bloomington, Ind., this weekend to take on the Indiana at 1:30 p.m. CT. The game is being televised on the Big Ten Network.
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