The last time Northwestern faced off with Michigan State, the ‘Cats found themselves on the wrong end of an overtime “moral victory” in East Lansing. But in the finale of the season series tonight at Welsh-Ryan Arena, finding any positives for the 'Cats proved difficult as Michigan State (16-8, 7-4) manhandled Northwestern (10-14, 1-10), 68-44, in a game that was hardly that close.
“I don’t think we played hard enough to be worthy of winning,” coach Chris Collins said. “I didn’t feel that we had the sense of fight that we have been having. Even in the last few games we’ve lost, we still had the effort and the fight, we just had a four-minute stretch where the games got away from us. Tonight I didn’t feel that fight; that’s what’s most disappointing.”
Throughout their now-10-game losing streak, the ‘Cats have been victimized by extended scoring droughts, but somehow, Northwestern found a way to hit a new low tonight, as Michigan State reeled off a game-icing first half 22-0 extended run.
“What’s tough for us is that we have a hard time getting to the free throw line, just because we’re not that physical,” Collins said. “So that’s why sometimes we have droughts. If we miss some shots, we’ve got to find a way to get a lay-up or to get to the line, and that’s been something that we haven’t done great.”
After a three-pointer from Tre Demps at the 10:47 mark cut the score to just 16-13, the ‘Cats did not score another point until a free throw from Demps ended the run with just 46 seconds left in the first half. That’s 10:01 sans ball-in-hoop. In fact, Demps was the only Wildcat who scored a basket in the first half, accounting for 10 of the ‘Cats’ 14 points. He finished with 20. NU players not named Demps went 0-for-15 in that period, as the ‘Cats shot just 4-for-22, good for 18.2 percent, from the field.
Meanwhile, Michigan State, carried by hot three-point shooting from Bryn Forbes and Travis Trice, shot 9-for-18 from beyond the arc in the first half and 48.3 percent overall. The Spartans also outrebounded the ‘Cats 20-13 in the first half.
The drought continued as the second half got underway, and only a “Vic Law tip-in” (that was really off of a Spartan’s fingertips) broke a 14:06 stretch without a Northwestern field goal to make the score 41-17 in favor of the Spartans.
Law emerged in the second half with nine points, but aside from that small bright spot, the entire second half was essentially garbage time as Michigan State coasted to victory.
Northwestern will get four days to rest up and prepare for its Sunday afternoon game against Iowa. Collins said he thinks there is a chance that JerShon Cobb and Nate Taphorn, who were both out for tonight’s game with injuries, can come back to face the Hawkeyes. It’s possible they can help give the ‘Cats what Collins said is a much-needed boost.
“We’ve got to do something,” Collins said. “We’ve got to find some energy again. For the first time, I saw some guys with their heads down a little bit that looked a little defeated. That’s on me to get our guys re-energized for the stretch run.”