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    Northwestern Falls To Michigan State In First Round Of Big Ten Tournament

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Northwestern's Sterling Williams breaks away from Michigan State guard Maurice Joseph during the first half of the Big Ten basketball tournament. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Northwestern's Sterling Williams breaks away from Michigan State guard Maurice Joseph during the first half of the Big Ten basketball tournament. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    March 8, 2007

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    CHICAGO -- Tenth-seed Northwestern made a hard charge in the second half and almost pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, falling to the seventh-seed Michigan State Spartans 62-57 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.

    Leading by three points late in the game, the Spartans' Goran Suton shot a long airball with about 11 seconds left. Northwestern's Jeremy Nash, who did an excellent job denying Drew Neitzel the ball on the possession, grabbed the rebound and threw an outlet pass to Craig Moore, who was not looking. The ball sailed out of bounds, erasing the Wildcats' chance to tie it with a 3-pointer.

    Neitzel scored 20 points and Travis Walton then hit two free throws with 10.4 seconds left to seal the win, setting up a matchup with second-seed Wisconsin on Friday.

    Michigan State saw a 16-point first-half lead dwindle to four midway through the second half. They would build it back up to 10 before the final round of drama.

    Moore found an open Tim Doyle underneath for a basket, and Doyle threw a no-look pass to Vince Scott for a layup that pulled Northwestern within 47-43 with 8:36 remaining. Neitzel's fifth 3-pointer made it 52-45 with 6:55 left, and Suton's three-point play boosted the lead to 10 with 3:36 remaining.

    Moore shot the Wildcats back into it, though.

    He hit a 3-pointer with 1:03 left to make it 59-54 and another with 47.5 seconds remaining to pull Northwestern within 60-57, but the Spartans hung on.

    Neitzel hit his first five 3-pointers and was 5-of-7 overall from the outside. Raymar Morgan added 15 points for the Spartans (22-10).

    Kevin Coble and Moore scored 15 apiece for Northwestern. Moore was 5-of-9 from long range and Coble hit 3-of-4. Coble also grabbed a team-high six boards and becomes the first freshman in school history to lead the team in both scoring (13.4 ppg) and rebounding (5.2 rpg).

    The league-leader with 99 3-pointers during the regular-season, Neitzel hit four as the Spartans built a 28-12 lead.

    Northwestern used the long ball to get back into it late in the half, hitting three 3-pointers in the final 4:17 to pull within 32-23. And Coble made it a six-point game when he hit from the outside just over a minute into the second.

    Doyle finished with nine points and six assists, setting the Northwestern single-season record for assists in a season with 157. He also becomes the first player in school history and the 14th player all-time in the Big Ten to record at least 350 points, 150 assists, 100 rebounds and 50 steals in the same season.

    Scott finished with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, in his final game.

    The Wildcats hit 11 3-pointers on the day, tying their season-high. But Michigan State was hot from the field, most notably in the first half, as they shot 67 percent in the first half and 58 percent for the game.

    The Associated Press contributed to this story