Although the home team was dressed in an unfamiliar green jersey, the Breslin Center crowd knew exactly who to cheer for Sunday in the MSU women’s basketball team’s 60-59 win over Middle Tennessee State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
With MSU down as many as 15 points in the first half, the fans played a huge role in bringing the Spartans back from a horrible start.
“That crowd really helped us today,” sophomore forward Cetera Washington said. “We love the home crowd and when we are down in the trenches and we hear them roar, we are able to make some runs and it fires us up even more.”
Washington got the crowd into the game with her defense, tying the ball up and nearly getting a steal on a Middle Tennessee handoff at the top of the key, getting the ball back for MSU and exciting the crowd just minutes after the team was facing what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
The fans then blew the roof off the Breslin when the Spartans hit back-to-back 3-pointers, bringing the deficit to only five points.
“I’ve always loved the fans,” said sophomore forward Kalisha Keane, who hit the first of the two 3-pointers. “They’re just so positive and supportive. They’re kind of like our sixth man out there right now. We really appreciate them so much.”
Keane got the crowd going even more when she got a steal and dropped in a breakaway layup to give MSU its first lead of the game with a little more than 13 minutes to play in the game.
“They definitely get our adrenaline flowing and it’s just really exciting,” Keane said. “I think it helps also when the other team can’t really hear each other out there because our crowd is so loud.”
The Spartans may need their fans to give them just as much of a boost on Tuesday as they face No. 1-seed Duke. The Blue Devils romped Austin Peay 83-42 on Sunday and will bring one of the most talented teams the Spartans have seen to Breslin.
“You’re going to walk into a hornets’ nest for sure, especially athletically and with pressure,” head coach Suzy Merchant said.
“Women’s basketball is a pretty small community and you know a No. 1 seed deserves it.”
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