Wildcats come up short against Spartans

By Etheria Modacure

For Northwestern University to make its first NCAA appearance in college history, they will need to have victories against ranked teams within the Big Ten. The Wildcats didn’t help their tournament resume on Jan. 3 because they lost to the #19 ranked Michigan State University Spartans 65-62 in front of a sellout crowd of 8,117 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Spartans limited Northwestern to shooting 31 percent throughout the game and were able to effectively use senior forward Draymond Green in the paint.

This was the second consecutive loss for the Wildcats as they began a tough opening stretch to Big Ten conference play. The Wildcats also lost to Purdue University on Dec. 31.

Wildcats guard John Shurna, who was playing despite an injured ankle, shot 1-for-11 from the field and finished with 11 points against the Spartans.

“I liked the way our [players] came back,” Northwestern Head Coach Bill Carmody said. “Micheal [Thompson] was a little quiet throughout [the game] and he sort of took over at the end there.”

The Wildcats were down 63-50 after a jumper by Spartans’ guard Kalin Lucas with 3:47 remaining. After guard Korie Lucious missed a free throw on a 1-and-1 attempt, Thompson hit a field goal to spark the Wildcats late rally.

Northwestern went on a 12-0 run with Thompson accounting for nine points during the stretch near the end of the second period. The Wildcats were down 63-62 with 27 seconds remaining when Lucas was fouled by Wildcats guard Alex Marcotulio.

Lucas missed the first free throw and the Wildcats had a chance to get the rebound, but Green grabbed the board and was immediately fouled. He hit both free throws to give the Spartans a 65-62 lead.

Wildcats guard Drew Crawford missed a last-second shot that would’ve counted for two points with 00.9 seconds remaining.

Spartans Head Coach Tom Izzo said he should’ve called a couple of timeouts during the last five minutes of the second period but failed to do so. He said the team hung their heads after Lucious missed the free throw.

“I just thought we had veteran [players] who wanted the ball in their hands, in Lucas and Draymond [Green], we just got a little out of whack,” Izzo said

Izzo said he thought Shurna wasn’t the same player he saw in game film. He said he wasn’t moving around as swiftly in the game.

Carmody said he didn’t think Shurna was physically prepared for the game and missed a lot of opportunities at the basket.

“He went by guys a few times, but didn’t have anything at the end to finish,” Carmody said. “Most of his shots were short. He didn’t seem to have that little pop [in his shot]. He’ll get better, he’s a tough kid.”

The Spartans were able to control the paint throughout the game as they outscored the Wildcats 30-17 in the post area. This allowed Michigan State to use dribble penetration to bait Northwestern defenders to guard the paint, leaving a player open on the perimeter for easy baskets.

Lucas said working the basketball into the post is something the team has done more proficiently in practice, which helped the Spartans against the Wildcats.

“We knew our bigs were going to kick it out to the guards and we were going to nail shots,” Lucas said. “We’ll shoot the ball and then we would go in [the paint]. We kept going back and forth and I think we did a great job on the offensive end with that.”

The Spartans were also good on the defensive end against a Northwestern team that was averaging 78.2 points each game. Michigan State blocked 12 shots with guard Keith Appling blocking five shots.

Shurna didn’t offer any excuses for his offensive sputter against the Spartans. He was wearing a protective boot on his left foot after the game. What hurt Shurna the most was not getting the defensive rebound after Lucas’ missed the free throw.

With the Wildcats losing its first two Big Ten conference games against Purdue and Michigan State, Shurna said there’s no reason for the team to let the loss damper the season.

“We’ve played two good teams, two good programs that are well coached but I think we can take a lot of positives from [them],” Shurna said. “Hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and continue moving on positively forward.”