Northwestern lost its second straight on Thursday, falling to Michigan State 85-70 in East Lansing.
NU lacked its trademark intensity—the quality that's defined year one of the Chris Collins era. The interior defense collapsed, allowing MSU to control the offensive glass. The perimeter defense also faded, with the Spartans translating open looks into frequent makes.
Adreian Payne had a game-high 20 points and Denzel Valentine added 16 for the Spartans, who shot 53 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc. They picked up 12 offensive rebounds to the Cats' five, and four players hit multiple three-point field goals.
NU, meanwhile, had its lack of depth exposed. Drew Crawford, Tre Demps and Jershon Cobb all played well on offense, but received little contribution from the supporting cast. The three combined for 58 points—83 percent of the team's total—and couldn't keep up with the MSU onslaught.
The frontline was overwhelmed by Payne, Matt Costello (9 points) and Kenny Kaminski (8). Alex Olah was decent on offense, but seemed out of place at times and fouled out late in the game. Worse, Northwestern lacks the personnel to replace him during these off nights.
Once again, Kale Abrahamson met the doghouse, pulled by Chris Collins early in favor of maligned freshman Nathan Taphorn. Collins, still one to experiment, even looked to former starting point guard Dave Sobolewski for a spark that never came.
It was the classic case of a solid team meeting a better one; NU tried to stick with a superior opponent but came up short. The Wildcats return to action Sunday against Minnesota for a season-defining game. Can they get the magic back?