The Michigan State Spartans women’s basketball team fell to 10-5 overall, and 5-5 in Big Ten action, after falling to the No. 22/20 Northwestern Wildcats Sunday afternoon. Despite a 19-point halftime deficit, the Spartans rallied in the second half to tie it up late. However, it was not quite enough as the Wildcats won 63-60.
Northwestern jumped out to a big lead early, up 12-4 midway through the first quarter. As the real NU went on an 8-0 run during that period, the lead grew to 17-4 before Michigan State could sort things out with a response. Turnovers and poor shooting doomed MSU in the opening period as the Spartans shot just 21 percent from the field and coughed the ball up four times.
The shooting woes of Michigan State carried over into the second quarter. NU used a late 9-0 run at one point to push the lead to 37-16 with just under a minute remaining. Junior point guard and the fifth leading scorer in the Big Ten’s Nia Clouden had just two points in the first half, proving (at least in my mind) Michigan State desperately needs to figure out an offensive solution beyond riding Clouden’s offensive prowess.
The Spartans came out with a fire lit from the locker room and scored the first eight points of the second half to trail just 37-26. Over the first half of the third quarter, MSU made six-straight buckets to trim it to a 10-point Northwestern lead. Michigan State even proceeded to get the second chance points after the seventh shot attempt missed to trim it to just eight with NU up 40-32.
Team work sparks the comeback!! 6-0 run for the Spartans! pic.twitter.com/A9iZqavAWZ— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_WBasketball) February 7, 2021
Sophomore forward Taiyier Parks and the Spartans inside game played a big role in eating into the big first half deficit. Parks scored eight of her 13 points and grabbed four rebounds in the third period alone. Michigan State also led in the third quarter in points in the paint, 14-2.
In the fourth quarter, State continued the furious comeback. Shortly into the period, a Clouden three-pointer saw MSU trailing just 53-50 with seven minutes left. MSU held the Wildcats scoreless from the field for over four minutes of game action. Sophomore forward Julia Ayrault tied the game at 56-56 at the 4:33 mark with a three-point play after she drew the foul on a made layup and got the extra point. Then with a Janai Crooms bucket, the Spartans seized their only lead of the game moving ahead 58-56 with under four minutes left. Offensive struggles against the NU defense ensured, though, as the the Spartans were held without a single field goal over the final 3:52 of game action to fall 63-60.
Overall in Sunday’s action, MSU outscored the Wildcats 32-14 in the paint. However, it proved for naught in the end. Parks led Michigan State in scoring for the first time this season as the sophomore notched her first double-double of the year. She scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Crooms also hit double-digits scoring with 10 points and hit a career high five steals. Clouden, despite a rough first half, still hit double-digits scoring with 12 points. Lindsey Pulliam led Northwestern in scoring with 22 points.
The Spartans return to action on Saturday, Feb. 13 at Penn State. The game is scheduled for noon on the Big Ten Network.