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Women's basketball beats Wisconsin on senior day

February 21, 2018
Redshirt senior Branndais Agee (10) goes against Wisconsin's forward Niya Beverly (22) during the women's basketball game against Wisconsin on Feb. 21, 2018 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Badgers, 69-61. (Annie Barker | The State News)
Redshirt senior Branndais Agee (10) goes against Wisconsin's forward Niya Beverly (22) during the women's basketball game against Wisconsin on Feb. 21, 2018 at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Badgers, 69-61. (Annie Barker | The State News) —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Tuesday may have been a night for seniors, but MSU’s underclassmen stole the show.

As MSU’s seniors played one final game at the Breslin Center, the Spartans (16-12, 6-9 Big Ten) needed all hands on deck in a back-and-forth affair in front of a crowd 5,355 strong to beat Wisconsin (9-20, 2-14), 69-61. 

Sophomore point guard Taryn McCutcheon led three MSU scorers into double-figures with 16 points and six assists. Junior center Jenna Allen scored 14 points and tallied nine rebounds off the bench and senior shooting guard Branndais Agee scored 13 points and 14 rebounds to mark her third double-double of the season. Underclassmen scored 43 points. 

Wisconsin’s Marsha Howard led all scorers on 12-of-19 shooting with 28 points and added 11 rebounds. Cayla McMorris scored 15 points as the Badgers’ only other double-figure scorer. 

“I thought down the stretch (the underclassmen) were really big,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “Jenna had 14 basically second half points and I thought Taryn was like ‘we’re not losing this game.’ With a couple of the 3s she hit, she just had an attitude about her. It would have been ideal if it came from the senior class, I do think Branndais had a pretty solid game from a rebounding perspective. She ended her last game here with a double-double and that’s pretty impressive as a senior.”

Field goals from Reimer and senior guard Lexi Gussert gave MSU its first six points of the game in a back-and-forth first quarter. The Spartans weren’t able to establish their biggest lead of the first half until they went on a 9-2 run to make it 29-23 with 2:25 before halftime. 

Agee led the Spartans at the half with seven points and six rebounds. MSU, which entered the season shooting 42.5 percent from the floor was held to 11-of-33 shooting for the first 20 minutes.

McMorris, who scored 12 points in the first half, was scoreless in the second half. The Badgers entered halftime without scoring a field goal the last 4:41, but a 9-3 spurt to start the second half gave Wisconsin the lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter. 

MSU’s 12-2 run that started with 1:30 left in the third and carried into the fourth gave the lead back to the Spartans after trailing by six midway through the third. 

“We had a lot of people that knew we were playing for something,” Agee said. “I think we all just gathered together and knew that we didn’t want to lose in front of so many fans with so much support.”

MSU, which lost seven of its last eight coming into Tuesday has a chance to enter the Big Ten Tournament on a two-game win streak. The Spartans close out the regular season on Saturday against Purdue on the road.

A 3-pointer from McCutcheon with 6:06 to play capped off a 7-0 run that would give the Spartans the lead for good. McCutcheon’s last 3-pointer came with 1:29 left to give the Spartans a 69-58 lead, their biggest of the night.

“It came down to ‘we’re not losing this game,’ basically,” McCutcheon said. Obviously I try to always make my shots, but it’s like I had i had a little bit more focus because I was like ‘we’re not losing this game.’ 

With 47 seconds remaining Merchant called timeout to sub in the underclassmen for the four seniors that played. Before going to the bench, each senior kissed the Spartan head at midcourt before letting the underclassmen finish the game.

“It felt good to finally be a part of that tradition,” Agee, a sixth-year senior said. “It’s a very emotional experience but I’m proud about my journey and we’re not finished yet. We still have a lot more to go.”

MSU finished shooting the game 36.9 percent from the floor and out-rebounded the Badgers 46-43. The Spartans outscored Wisconsin 26-13 off second chance points thanks to a 19-10 rebounding edge on the offensive glass.

The Spartans can still get a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament if 10th place Penn State (15-12, 6-8) loses to Nebraska on Thursday.

Tipoff against the Boilermakers (17-11, 8-6)  at Mackey Arena is set for 2 p.m. 

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“I think our kids definitely understand what’s at stake and certainly they understand Purdue is a real good team, especially at home,” Merchant said. “We have to play them on their senior night. It’s never easy. But I don’t think you can worry about outcomes. I think sometimes if you come into a game saying you have to win the game, versus focusing on the details of the game plan that’s the difference.”


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