The Michigan State Spartans women’s basketball team continue their homestand today with a visit from the No. 22/23 Northwestern Wildcats. This will be the 73rd all-time meeting between the teams, and MSU leads the series 44-28. Northwestern has owned the series of late, though. The Wildcats won both games last season, and have won six of the last 10 in the series. Michigan State has won two of the last three in East Lansing, though.
3:00 p.m. EST/2:00 p.m. CST
Breslin Center - East Lansing, Michigan
The real NU sits in fifth place in the Big Ten standings right now, with MSU two back in seventh. The Wildcats enter this one 8-3 in Big Ten action (10-3 overall) with MSU at 5-4 in Big Ten action (10-4 overall).
Northwestern ranks No. 22 in the AP and No. 20 in the coaches poll currently. The Wildcats just upset No. 11 Ohio State in Evanston on Monday night in a 69-57 double-digit thrashing. They are also riding a two-game winning streak and six of their last seven overall. Both MSU and NU last loss was to Indiana.
The Wildcats rank ninth in the league in scoring offense, averaging just 74 points per game. Defense is the team’s strength as NU ranks fourth in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 61.4 points per game, and average 13 steals per game (second in Big Ten) and average a +9.4 turnover margin (top in the Big Ten). The Wildcats also rank sixth in the Big Ten in scoring margin with an average +12.6 point margin.
Junior guard Veronica Burton leads Northwestern with 17.8 points per game, good for eighth in the Big Ten. Burton also leads the conference in steals with her 4.4 per game. Senior guard Lindsey Pulliam is close behind in scoring with her 16.2 points per game placing her 15th in the league.
Junior combo guard/forward Sydney Wood is second on the team and third in the Big Ten with 2.9 steals per game. Meanwhile, junior forward Courtney Shaw leads NU and ranks 12th in the Big Ten with her average of 7.1 boards per game.
Now 14 games into the season, Michigan State’s 19.1 assists per game ranking seventh in the nation and second in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, the 1.5 assist to turnover ratio is good for ninth in the country and fourth in the league.
Northwestern’s defensive strength may prove problematic for Michigan State. While the Spartans rank highly in assist to turnover ratio, they have failed to score more than 70 points in the last two games prior to Thursday’s win over Illinois, and failed to reached the 70-point mark in three of the last five games.
Nia Clouden also currently sits at No. 23 in MSU’s all-time scoring leaders, trailing No. 22 Julie Polakowski (1982-1986) by 34 points.