The Northwestern Wildcats went on the road and took down No. 10 Michigan State, who were riding a nine-game winning streak, in a back and forth game without their top player, Pete Nance and Elyjah Williams.
Northwestern came out of the gates hot, taking an early 12-4 lead thanks in large part to their shooting and early turnovers from the Spartans.
After that stretch, the Wildcats went cold offensively which allowed Michigan State to get in transition and find their rhythm. The highlight of the Spartans’ run was a deep three that senior forward Gabe Brown made just as the shot clock expired. Brown hit another three on the ensuing possession to give MSU a 17-15 lead.
Northwestern was able to go into the break with a 38-33 halftime lead because of their defensive effort and three-point shooting. On defense they weren’t allowing any easy looks while also forcing a lot of turnovers. Heading into halftime the Spartans had 12 turnovers, the same amount of field goals they had made at that point.
Heading into halftime the Wildcats had also made 7 of their 13 three-point attempts. Those seven makes also accounted for half of the team’s total made field goals.
Junior guards Boo Buie and Chase Audige were a huge part of that as Buie finished the first half with eight points and two made threes, and Audige finished with nine points on 3-for-4 shooting from three. Buie finished the game with 12 points and fours assists while Audige ended with 14 points.
Aside from the scoring and defense, Northwestern also received great effort from their centers, junior Ryan Young, who replaced Nance in the starting lineup, and sophomore Matthew Nicholson, who had his best game of the season in the biggest game of the year. The pair boxed out the opposition throughout the game which helped create extra possessions. The Wildcats outrebound the Spartans in the first half 18-15.
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Purdue starting pitcher Troy Wansing mixed his pitches well all afternoon as the Boilermakers capitalized on a quality 5.2 innings from their Sunday starter to pull out a series victory against Northwestern, 7-2.
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Ethan O'Donnell broke Northwestern's single-season doubles record, the 'Cats mashed 4 opposite field home runs, and Farinelli pitched a one-run complete game to earn the Wildcats a much needed Big Ten win.
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The Wildcats have lost six of their last seven conference games, tumbling to ninth in the standings and trailing Purdue by one game for the final Big Ten Tournament berth.
MSU came out revitalized in the second half. Their defensive intensity was clearly ramped up, forcing Northwestern to take difficult shots, pressed against the shot clock. The Spartans at one point went on an 11-0 run while the Wildcats couldn’t get anything going offensively.
Junior forward Julius Marble II was a huge part of the MSU offense, and he responded with the best game of his career. Marble finished with a career-high 18 points on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting day.
While the three-point shot helped them take the lead in the first half, the team’s touch disappeared in the second. They shot just 1-for-13 from three in the second half.
The stabilizer throughout the game was Young, who Northwestern went to time and time again. He came up big when the offense was stalling with his post ups and offensive rebounding that led to easy buckets inside. Young finished the game with a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds.
With Northwestern up 64-62 and only :13.6 left on the clock, the Wildcats were able to come up with a key stop, but once they came up with the rebound the refs called a travel, giving MSU the ball with .7 seconds left on the clock.
The Spartans drew up a lob play for senior forward Marcus Bingham Jr. who drew a foul and went to the line for a one-and-one. Bingham missed the first and the Wildcats secured the rebound and the win.
The win, which is without a doubt their most impressive of the season, snaps a four-game losing streak for Northwestern as they look ahead to their next game against Wisconsin on Tuesday at Welsh-Ryan Arena at 8 p.m. C.T.