Thursday, February 20, 2020

PREVIEW: Michigan State women's basketball looks to get back on track against No. 21 Northwestern

The Spartans travel to Evanston to close out their road trip

February 10, 2020
<p>Freshman guard Moira Joiner (22) calls a play during a women’s basketball game against Northwestern on Jan. 23 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans fell to the Wildcats 76-48.</p>

Freshman guard Moira Joiner (22) calls a play during a women’s basketball game against Northwestern on Jan. 23 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans fell to the Wildcats 76-48.

Photo by Alyte Katilius | The State News

After a week off, Michigan State women’s basketball (11-11, 4-7) looks to break their losing streak against the No. 21 Northwestern Wildcats (19-3, 9-2) team that started it. 

Following last Monday’s 94-53 rout at the hands of No. 13 Maryland, the Spartans are the losers of four straight, their longest slump of the season. The lopsided final score was not the most compelling part of the night, however, as MSU lost one of their most valuable players to injury. 

Senior guard Taryn McCutcheon was the latest Spartan to be bit by the injury bug, leaving the game in the third quarter with a foot injury.

The loss of McCutcheon, one of two players to start every game this season, will force the Spartans to take the court against Northwestern with only seven scholarship players. 

Amid the depleted lineup, MSU will rely on the scoring efforts of sophomore Nia Clouden. Clouden has led the team in scoring 11 times this season and averaged 14.7 points over the last three games, but was blanked in the Spartans’ most recent contest against Northwestern in January. 

Since that matchup, Northwestern has won three of their last four to improve to third overall in the Big Ten, trailing only Iowa and Maryland. 

The Wildcats are led by junior guard Lindsey Pulliam, the 23rd ranked scorer in the country. Averaging 19.2 points per game, Pulliam and sophomore guard Veronica Burton each posted 22 points to lead Northwestern in scoring during their last game against the Spartans. 

Northwestern also boasts the second-best scoring defense in the Big Ten, challenging the perimeter and clogging lanes on their way to a 55.9 opponent average. Burton leads the conference in steals with four per game in a defense that emphasizes creating turnovers.

Holders of a 10-2 record in Evanston, the Wildcats' home court advantage will pose a significant challenge for an MSU team that has struggled to a 2-6 record on the road. The Spartans will have to pull out all the stops against one of the conference’s best teams in order to stay above .500 and keep their season alive.

Tipoff is set for 9:00 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

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