Spartans suddenly have a lot on the line vs. Northwestern


Suzy Merchant/Photo: Siobhan Findlay

Nathan Stearns, Women's Basketball/Field Hockey Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State Spartans will be looking to increase their conference win streak to four this Thursday, as they welcome the conference-leading No. 22 Northwestern Wildcats to the Breslin Center this Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

After a rough stretch of conference play out of the gate, the Green and White have rattled off three consecutive conference wins over Wisconsin, Ohio State and Rutgers.

The victory over Rutgers on Monday was especially impressive, as MSU went on the road and knocked off the 15-2 Scarlet Knights. With the victory, MSU improved to 11-7 and 4-3 in conference play.

Before that road win, MSU sported a 2-7 mark in games away from the Breslin this season.

Saginaw native Moira Joiner set a career high in points with 20 against Rutgers. The talented Spartan freshman also was 5-for-6 from beyond the arc in the 66-55 win over the Scarlet Knights. 

With Taryn McCutcheon and others on the mend, Joiner will need to continue to play well if MSU wishes to knock off Northwestern.

MSU also welcomed back Julia Ayrault after a brief one-game absence caused by flu symptoms. She accumulated seven points and four rebounds in 15 minutes of action for the Green and White. 

Northwestern currently holds a 6-1 conference record and is currently tied atop the Big Ten with Iowa. The Wildcats will come into Thursday’s conference tilt with a lengthy winning streak of their own, as they have won four straight games over the likes of Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana and Penn State.

The Wildcats are coming off of a successful 2018-19 campaign that saw them win 21 games and go all the way to the WNIT Championship game before being bounced by Arizona 56-42.

Northwestern returns a solid core from a season ago, as leading scorer Lindsey Pulliam returns along with other key pieces, such as Abi Scheid, Abbie Wolf and Veronica Burton.

Pulliam is once again leading the Wildcats in scoring with 18.3 points per game. Scheid has been especially lethal from beyond the arc for Northwestern, as she is currently shooting at a 47% clip from downtown. Wolf and Burton are both having solid seasons as well, averaging 11.7 and 8.9 points per game respectively. 

Northwestern is led by head coach Joe McKeown. McKeown will be looking to make the NCAA tournament for only the second time in his 12 seasons at Northwestern.

A few weeks ago, hardly anyone could have imagined that the stakes would be this high for Michigan State going into the Northwestern contest. The Spartans are on the bubble from an NCAA tournament perspective, but can take themselves off the schneid with a massive home court victory against the ranked Wildcats.

Contact Nathan Stearns at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @NathanStearns11.