Feb. 1, 2005
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EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern will take on its fifth-consecutive ranked opponent Thursday when it travels to No. 10 Michigan State to tangle with the Spartans at the Breslin Center. Tip is slated for 7 p.m. CST. The Wildcats enter the contest coming off two strong performances against a pair of the Big Ten's storied programs. Northwestern stunned No. 22 Penn State, 59-48, on Jan. 27 and dropped a heartbreaker to No. 24 Purdue, 68-65, last Sunday.
Against the Boilermakers, the game was tied at the half, 29-29, and the teams knotted the score six times in the second half. Purdue claimed the largest lead of the contest for either team at seven points with 5:04 to play. Northwestern freshman Melissa Miller (Bloomington, Minn./The Breck School) hit a nifty hook layup in the paint and senior Samantha McComb (Farmington Hills, Mich./North Farmington) hit a free-throw to cut the lead to 60-56 with 4:13 remaining. The teams traded points until a pair of Sara Stutz (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) free throws drew Northwestern to within two at 65-63 with 27 seconds left.
Purdue (12-8, 5-4 Big Ten) hit a pair of free throws but senior Melissa Culver (Littleton, Colo./Heritage) drove the length of the floor for a layup with 18 seconds left. After a Wildcat foul, Purdue converted on 1-of-2 free throws before a last-second 3-pointer from Culver drew front iron and bounced away at the buzzer.
Senior Suzanne Morrison (Franklin, Mich./Detroit Country Day) scored a game-high 18 points in her first significant time back after suffering a knee injury on Dec. 14. Senior Sarah Kwasinski (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick) joined Morrison in double-figures with 13 points while Stutz added 10. Kwasinski also blocked five shots -- her best total of the season --to pull within one of tying Anucha Brown's career Northwestern record of 174.
For the second-straight game, the Wildcats outrebounded their opponent finishing with 35 caroms to Purdue's 30. Junior Ifeoma Okonkwo (Spring, Texas/Klein Oak) led NU with six rebounds.
McComb ranks second in the Big Ten with a .538 3-point field goal percentage in league games and she is tied for third in assists per game, averaging 4.33 in conference action. Okonkwo currently ranks in the top 10 in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.505) and rebounding (6.6) in conference games.
Michigan State features three players who are averaging in double-figures, highlighted by Senior Kelli Roehrig (14.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Senior Liz Shimek (14.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg) and junior Lindsay Bowen (14.9 ppg) also average in double figures. The Spartans rank atop the conference leader board in 3-point field goal percentage (.410), rebounding offense (38.6), rebounding margin (+8.4) and offensive rebounds (14.56/game).
The Wildcats round out a stretch of five-consecutive games against ranked opponents when they travel to Michigan State on Feb. 3. Northwestern then returns to Welsh-Ryan Arena for a pair of games against Iowa (Feb. 10) and Indiana (Feb. 13).
All-Time Record: Michigan State leads, 24-22
Last Meeting: 70-46, Michigan State (Feb. 8, 2004)
Series Streak: 3, Michigan State