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    Michigan State Bests Northwestern, 76-57

    Dannielle Diamant led NU with 16 points Sunday afternoon.

    Dannielle Diamant led NU with 16 points Sunday afternoon.

    Feb. 26, 2012

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    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
    Score: Michigan State 76, Northwestern 57
    Records: NU (14-15, 4-12 Big Ten), Michigan State (19-10, 11-5 Big Ten)
    Next NU Event: Big Ten Tournament First Round -- Thursday, March 1 vs. Nebraska -- 1 p.m. CT -- Indianapolis

    EVANSTON, Ill.-- Northwestern mounted a valiant second-half comeback, but it proved not to be enough as Michigan State held on for a 76-57 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena Sunday afternoon. An outstanding crowd of 2,452 turned out to honor Allison Mocchi, Brittany Orban and Tailor Jones on Senior Day.

    The Wildcats wrap up the regular season with a 14-15 overall mark and will enter the 2012 Big Ten Tournament as the No. 11 seed, set for a first-round matchup with Nebraska at 1 p.m. CT Thursday in Indianapolis. Northwestern upset the Huskers in the regular-season meeting, a 63-51 win in Lincoln with Nebraska ranked No. 16 at the time.

    "It was a very emotional day with our seniors," head coach Joe McKeown said. "I have been here four years just like Brittany [Orban], Allison [Mocchi], and Tailor [Jones], and what they've contributed will be missed. They are the winningest class that we've had in 20 or so years. In terms of the game, I thought transition defense and runs just really set us back. It was pretty much an even game in the first half. I think we had some bad turnovers that they converted. They were just quick off the dribble and then they found the open people."

    Watch Game Highlights
    Dannielle Diamant erupted for nine of NU's first 11 points, with a layup at the 15:56 mark giving the Wildcats an 11-10 edge heading into the first media timeout. The junior was 4-of-6 from the field and added a three pointer. After the flurry of scoring to start the game, both teams combined for just nine points over the next four-plus minutes, bringing the tally to 15-14 in favor of NU.

    Kendall Hackney, who combined with Diamant to record 16 of NU's initial 20 points, rattled off the 'Cats' next five points to put them up 20-19 with 7:39 remaining. But Michigan State claimed the lead two minutes later on a jumper by Kiana Johnson. It was Morgan Jones who answered this time for NU, draining a three pointer to regain the lead for the Wildcats. Four-straight free throws from the Spartans gave them a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the half, taking a 33-29 edge into the break.

    Hackney led the Wildcats with 11 points on a 4-of-8 effort from the field. As a team, NU shot 46 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes.

    The Spartans opened the second half on an 11-2 run build their largest lead of the game--a 42-31 advantage less than five minutes into the second frame. Michigan State continued to build the difference, outscoring NU 23-6 through the first 10 minutes to set the margin at 31. Northwestern began its run from the same place it has all season--on the defensive end. The Wildcats executed their full-court press to a "T", forcing three Spartan turnovers in the backcourt, and fueling a 12-2 spurt to slice what was a 23-point lead to just 12 with 6:42 remaining.

    With just over four minutes remaining, Hackney sunk a pair of free throws to reduce MSU's lead to single digits--62-53. But a three pointer from Taylor Alton, followed by a Wildcat turnover and an "and-1" from the Spartans pushed Michigan State back up by 15 with 3:08 left and deflated the Wildcats' momentum, this time, for good.

    Diamant finished with 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds, while Hackney added 14 points and Morgan Jones chipped in 10.


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