It wasn’t the dominating, confidence-boosting win the Spartans were hoping for, but they’ll take it.
The MSU women’s basketball team (17-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) avoided a three-game skid by beating Northwestern 67-62 on the road tonight behind junior forward Annalise Pickrel’s career-high 21 points.
Thursday’s win marked MSU’s 18th consecutive against the Wildcats (10-11 overall, 2-6 Big Ten).
In the second game since being pulled from the starting lineup, Pickrel went 7-of-9 from the floor, including five 3-pointers — another career-high — while registering six rebounds and four steals.
Senior guard Jasmine Thomas had 14 points and six rebounds while junior guard Klarissa Bell added 10 points of her own.
Head coach Suzy Merchant went with the new-look lineup of Thomas, Bell, senior forward Courtney Schiffauer, sophomore guard Kiana Johnson and sophomore center Jasmine Hines to start the game for the second straight contest.
Northwestern jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first 3:38 of the game as the Spartans struggled to score the ball.
Pickrel’s second 3-pointer of the night tied it up at 14 apiece about with 9:53 left in the first half, but the Wildcats went on to take a 32-26 lead into the break.
In the second half it seemed like every time MSU needed a boost or a clutch shot, Pickrel was there to save the day.
The Grand Rapids, Mich., product nailed another 3-pointer to take a 42-41 lead a little more than six minutes into the half. She was fouled on the shot but missed the free throw for the coveted four-point play.
Bell was fouled on a layup that put the Spartans within one with 7:36 to play. Before she could shoot her free throw, Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown was whistled for a technical foul.
Johnson hit the pair of free throws resulting from the technical to give the Spartans the lead for the last time. Bell sunk her own free throw to complete the three-point play, putting MSU up 50-48.
Another Pickrel 3-pointer, which appeared to be off but got a fortunate bounce high off the glass, with 4:12 left to play pushed MSU’s lead to nine.
Under two minutes to play and clinging to a four-point lead, Pickrel’s final triple of the night ended a 7-0 Wildcat run and put MSU in the driver’s seat the rest of the way.
After stumbling in back-to-back contests for the first time this season, Merchant improved her record to 42-14 in games following losses during her tenure in East Lansing.
The Spartans return home Monday to face rival Michigan.
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