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March 10, 2013

High effort, no reward

EAST LANSING, Mich.--Northwestern battled toe-to-toe with a highly ranked opponent again, but No. 10/12 Michigan State finished strong down the stretch to top the Wildcats 71-61 Sunday evening at Breslin Center.

Kale Abrahamson led four Wildcats in double figures with a career-high 16 points while fellow freshmen Tre Demps and Alex Olah added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Alex Marcotullio also chipped in with 11.

The Wildcats got off to a good start as a 3-pointer by Abrahamson and a hook shot by Olah gave NU an early 5-2 lead.

Northwestern was able to get free for some good looks from beyond the arch early on, but they struggled to connect as Michigan State went on an 11-0 run to go in front 13-5 with 12 minutes to go in the opening half.

The Spartans stretched their advantage to 26-13 before Marcotullio, a Michigan native, broke a long dry spell from beyond the arch for NU by nailing a triple with just under four minutes remaining to make it 26-16.

Northwestern was terrific on the glass over the opening 20 minutes of play, out-rebounding Michigan State 13-11, including grabbing seven offensive boards.

The Wildcats finished the half strong as Demps' 3-pointer with three seconds left in the stanza got NU within 33-26 at the break.

The Spartans scored the first four points of the second half before Dave Sobolewski hit a triple and Abrahamson scored on a lay-in to get Northwestern within 37-31. After a basket by the hosts, Marcotullio drilled a trey from out of the corner that got the 'Cats within five, 39-34, with 16 minutes to go.

NU would twice cut the deficit to three following layups by Abrahamson and Demps, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Travis Trice and Adeian Payne pushed the hosts' lead back up to nine, forcing the Wildcats to use a timeout with 11:15 left.

However, Northwestern refused to go away. A trey by Marcotullio, a pair of layups by Demps and then two free throws by Reggie Hearn got the Wildcats back to even, 51-51, with 7:16 remaining.

The score was knotted, 53-53, following a slam by Olah, but a bucket by Derrick Nix and two free throws by Branden Dawson gave Michigan State a four-point advantage. Following the final media timeout, NU had a pair of 3-point attempts but couldn't connect.

Keith Appling hit two from the charity stripe to make it 59-53 and Sobolewski missed just short from beyond the arch on the other end. An Appling dunk then extended the Spartans' lead to eight, helping seal the win for MSU.

NU finished with a 25-24 rebounding advantage, including grabbing 13 offensive boards. Appling led Michigan State with 16 points.

Northwestern is the No. 11 seed for this week's Big Ten tournament which gets underway Thursday at United Center in Chicago. The Wildcats face sixth-seeded Iowa at approximately 8 p.m.

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