The Michigan State Spartans have moved to 8-2 (3-2 in the Big Ten) since our last recap. The Spartan women had risen to No. 23 in the AP Poll and No. 24 in the Coaches Poll last week after beating Purdue, but dropped out this week following back-to-back losses to No. 15 Maryland and unranked Nebraska. MSU will play at Illinois on Thursday.
Purdue Recap, MSU 71-PU 64
The then AP No. 25 ranked Spartan women hit the road to start the new year with a game in West Lafayette against the Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday, Jan. 3. Michigan State moved to 8-0 on the season and 3-0 in Big Ten action with the 71-64 win. The 8-0 start for MSU was the best since the 2012-13 team achieved the same record to start the season.
Nia Clouden led MSU with 23 points, marking the fourth 20-point game of the season for the junior point guard. While it was Clouden’s fourth-straight game with at least 20 points, it was also the 14th of her career with at least 23 points. The game left her just 14 shy of 1,000 career points.
Alisia Smith had a season high 15 points in the game, nine coming in the fourth quarter alone. Julia Ayrault also scored double figures for the second-straight game as she hit 10 points to go along with her four boards.
After Purdue jumped out to an early 9-5 lead, MSU called a timeout and rallied coming out of the huddle to quickly tie it up. The Spartans took the lead and held on for a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, it was all MSU as the Spartans extended their lead to double-digits at one point, leading 29-19 before Purdue was able to rally. A 7-0 run to close out the first half left the Spartans solidly in the lead headed into the locker room, up 37-25.
Purdue lit it up on the scoreboard in the third quarter, however. Using a 15-2 run, the Boilermakers came to within one point late in the period, trailing 41-40. However, after the initial rally by Purdue, with just 1:41 remaining in the quarter the Spartans responded with four of their eight points of the quarter to close it out with a 50-45 lead.
Nia Clouden finally took over the game in the fourth quarter as she scored 11 of her 23 points in the quarter. MSU pushed its lead to double-digits, but Purdue refused to go quietly. The Boilermakers clawed back to within three with just 25 seconds left in the game, but had to resort to fouls. Throughout the fourth quarter, MSU made six of its eight attempts from the free throw line, and overall scored 26 points in the quarter. That was a season high as well.
Final score 71-64, and that’s a Victory for MSU!
Coach Merchant Post-Game Remarks
Maryland Recap, MSU 87-UMD 93
The No. 23/24 Spartan women suffered their first loss of the season, falling at home to the No. 15 ranked Maryland Terrapins 93-87. Despite four Spartans scoring double-digits and shooting higher percentages from the field and three-point range, MSU couldn’t overcome the Terps and their 86.8 percent shooting from the free throw line. Had the Spartans managed to win this matchup, the 9-0 start would have been the best in program history.
Junior point guard Nia Clouden extended her 20-plus point game streak to five, and 23-plus points career games to 15. More importantly, Clouden scored a career high 32 points. This pushed her above the 1,000 career points mark as she became the 29th member of MSU’s 1,000-point club on just her second basket of the second half. Clouden also had five assists, three rebounds, and two steals.
With her first basket of the second half, @NiaClouden became the 29th member of MSU’s 1,000-point club! She also had her career game, scoring 32 points against Maryland!! #GoGreen pic.twitter.com/nwhSMFIW7X
— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_WBasketball) January 8, 2021
Julia Ayrault hit double figures for the third-straight game, scoring 17. Alyza Winston hit 11-points, and Mardrekia Cook scored 10.
Michigan State managed to take a narrow 9-7 lead early in the first quarter, but Maryland rallied to an 18-17 lead with just over two minutes left. A back-and-forth battle in the quarter ended with the Terps holding a narrow 22-19 lead.
The Spartans had foul trouble in the second quarter as Ayrault and Taiyier Parks both played with two. The Terps helped capitalize on it by jumping out to a 28-20 lead and forcing an MSU timeout with 6:46 left. In the end, Maryland went on an 11-0 run to finish out the quarter up 35-20. Small consolation prize for Spartans fans is the 15-point lead would be the largest of the game for Maryland.
MSU scored the first five points of the third quarter and cut the game to within 10 and would later use a 7-0 run to trim the deficit to just 57-50. The Spartans held Maryland scoreless for over three minutes of game play, but couldn’t finish their rally to take control of the game. Maryland broke out of its scoring funk late to end the third up 70-59.
In the fourth quarter, the inability to finish at the charity stripe spelled doom for Michigan State. Despite finishing the game with a 44.2 to 41.5 percent shooting advantage from the field, and 37 percent to 33.3 percent percentage from three, MSU resorted to fouling late and watched the Terps shoot 11-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter alone. Despite making it 83-81 with 1:46 remaining, the Terps pulled away to finish with the win.
Perhaps a bit suspect on total throughout the game, Maryland overall shot 33-for-38 from the charity stripe on the game. Yes, you read that right. Maryland had 38 attempts from the free throw line, and ended the game with 33 of its 93 points coming from the line. Michigan State went 9-for-14 overall from the free throw line. Subtract out the foul shots to Maryland in the fourth quarter, and the Terps still had a 26-14 advantage in foul shots
Coach Merchant Post-Game Remarks
Nia Clouden Post-Game Remarks
Julia Ayrault Post-Game Remarks
Nebraska Recap, MSU 64-UNL 68
The Spartans moved to 8-2 overall and 3-2 in Big Ten play with their 68-64 loss to Nebraska this past Sunday. Losing to Maryland was one thing, but letting the Huskers control the game the way they did and escape East Lansing with the win was inexcusable. Maybe it is a personal thing that I get tired of MSU failing to put away Nebraska like the rest of the conference any time Michigan State faces them in seemingly any sport, but I for one am getting incredibly fed up with the inability to show up against the Cornhuskers in games MSU should win. This game is a prime example of why I hold that frustration.
Nebraska’s squad has been riddled with long-term to season-ending injuries this season. The team had just eight players available, none of whom saw less than 16 minutes. MSU failed to foul out a single Husker (though, to be blunt, some of the calls I saw against MSU and no whistles against Nebraska were absurd so throw out claims of home court advantage for yet another game on that front). Yet Nia Clouden did get into foul trouble and fouled out with just 14 points.
The Spartans fell behind early, being out-scored 20-16 and 19-14 in the first and second quarter, respectively. Overall, shooting by the Spartans was poor in this one as the Huskers went six-for-14 from three to MSU’s five-for-25 in the game. Michigan State’s failure to move the ball also didn’t help. The Spartans averaged 21.4 assists per game prior to the Nebraska matchup and managed just 17 assists against the Huskers.
Michigan State scored the first six points of the third period, helped by forcing two turnovers, and cut the Huskers lead to 39-36 by the 8:22 mark. The Spartans pushed their run to an 8-0 advantage to make it a one-point game at just 39-38, causing Nebraska to call a timeout. After a pair of Tory Ozment free throws, the Spartans took their first lead of the second half, 44-43, at the 5:28 mark. MSU went on a cold streak though, managing just four more points over the quarter while holding the Huskers to just four as well, marking an MSU lead 48-47.
In the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, the high water mark was a five-point lead with eight minutes left. Nebraska took the lead back with 4:11 left on an Isabelle Bourne layup and never relinquished it again. Michigan State did have a chance to tie the game up with just five seconds left, but Alyza Winston’s three-point attempt was blocked by Nebraska’s Kate Cain and an ensuing MSU foul left the final score 68-64.