INDIANAPOLIS- The ninth-seed Spartans (20-10, 10-9 Big Ten) held on to defeat the eighth-seed Wildcats (16-14, 9-10 Big Ten), 68-52 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
“We just shared the ball like we usually do,” senior center Jenna Allen said. “We’re at our best when we share the ball.”
Both teams started off strong but the Spartans held on to the lead for the majority for the first half, only trailing for 26 seconds. Northwestern started with back-to-back threes and a strong scrappy defense and holding Michigan State to four offensive rebounds. MSU was able to draw key fouls and shot 75 percent from the line but struggled with eight turnovers.
“I thought our kids did a great job.” MSU coach Suzy Merchant said.
The Spartans had the seven point lead at the half, 39-32.
MSU shot 50 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from beyond the arc. Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon led with ten points, followed by Allen’s nine points. Redshirt junior Shay Colley led with five boards followed by freshman guard Nia Coulden’s four.
Northwestern shot 42.9 percent from the field, 50 percent from three point range and 80 percent from the line. Junior forward/centers Abi Scheid and Abbie Wolf led with nine points each. Freshman guard Veronica Burton led with four rebounds.
An early Northwestern 8-0 run stalled the Spartans in the third quarter. MSU finally scored on a Colley three to break the run. MSU would end the quarter on their own 8-0 run led by Coulden’s four third quarter points.
“I think everyone kind of thought they were in a slump at some part of the game, then people like Drekia coming out and getting and-ones and putbacks and Nia Hollie gave us perfect energy and we needed that.” Cooks said about the third quarter slump.
“I think we tried to do as much as we could (using depth on bench). I know there’s kids on our team that play more but I do think we can go nine, ten deep.” Merchant said.
MSU had 20 points off the bench at the end of the game.
The Spartan defense, led by sophomore forward Sidney Cooks held the Wildcats scoreless for the first 5:54 of the fourth quarter. Cooks had two steals and finished with nine points.
“I think everybody contributed so well today. I was really excited, my time on the bench too, I was cheering everybody on.” Cooks said.
MSU finished shooting 44.1 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three point range and 53.5 percent from the line. MSU outscored Northwestern 12-0 on fast break points. Four Spartans posted double figures; Allen had 11 points, Colley had 14, McCutcheon had 10 and Clouden had 11.
“(We’re going to) keep the same energy and just focus and right now we know that we have to survive or we’re out.” Allen. “I told everybody before the game, to give it your all. Survive and advance and that’s what we plan on doing.”
The Spartans will go on to face No. 1 seed Maryland tomorrow in the third round of the tournament with tip-off starting at noon. The game will be televised on BTN.
“Nothing in the past predicts your future.” Merchant said.