Lindsey Pulliam, Veronica Burton leads No. 22 Northwestern past Michigan State


Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Ian Drummond, General assignment reporter

EAST LANSING — Michigan State looked to stay unbeaten at home this season against No. 22 Northwestern on Thursday night. Instead of another crazy home win, the Spartans could only sit and watch as they were dominated wire-to-wire by the Wildcats, who won 76-48.

Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton led the Wildcats with 44 combined points on 16 made shots.

Coach Suzy Merchant was visibly frustrated.

“I’m in shock. I don’t know whose team that was, because that’s not how we’ve been playing,” said Merchant.

After a slow start, Moira Joiner knocked down an open three for the Spartans to start the scoring. That proved to be the offensive highlight of the first quarter until the Wildcats started knocking down shots. 

After an 11-0 run to end the first quarter capped off by an Abi Scheid 3-pointer, Northwestern led 17-7. The Spartans, who shot respectively for the first half of the quarter, suddenly were ice cold.

“As soon as they went on that run we put our heads down like it was over,” said senior guard Taryn McCutcheon.

The Wildcats were suffocating on defense in the paint, forcing the Spartans outside. Though Joiner and Julia Ayrault knocked down 3-pointers, the Spartans got forced into tough shots down low that didn’t land. 

MSU shot 18-of-51 from the field.

“That zone, the way they play it makes it difficult. They’re long, they’re athletic, they’re big, so it isn’t always easy to run traditional zone offenses,” said Merchant.

MSU shot 18-of-51 from the field. Joiner led the team in points with 17 and finished 5-8 from behind the arc.

Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton rained down shots from all over for Northwestern, including a tough layup that pushed the lead to 30-17 with under three minutes left in the second quarter. 

Joiner knocked down two more big threes to close the gap, but the Wildcats still carried a 33-23 lead into halftime.

“[Joiner]’s an unbelievable piece to this team,” said McCutcheon.

The Spartans came out of the locker room looking gassed, and it showed in the third quarter. WIth 4:30 to go, they found themselves in a 20-point hole. 

Players showed visible frustration driving to the hoop, trying to force themselves through Northwestern’s tight defense, only to watch another shot slip through their own basket seconds later. 

The game slipped further and further out of MSU’s hands in the third. Already running on fumes, mistakes piled up. 

If one play defined the game, it was when McCutcheon got an offensive rebound, lost it, and batted at it, only for it to fall perfectly for Northwestern to get a fast-break layup. 

“When we turn it over 24 times and it leads to 35 points, that’s pretty upsetting,” said Merchant.

Northwestern led 59-32 at the end of the quarter despite playing only two starters for the last three minutes.

As the fourth quarter began, MSU knew it was only playing for dignity. Claire Hendrickson made two quick threes off the bench, but there was no time for it to make a difference. The Spartans suffered their first home loss of the season in devastating fashion.

“We’re far from giving up and we’re far from over,” said McCutcheon. “The Big Ten is crazy.”

MSU travels to No. 19 Iowa for its next game at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Follow Ian Drummond on Twitter @IDrumma