Women's basketball returned to its home crowd tonight in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament where they defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats, 81-75.
It looked as if the Spartans were going to pull away quickly right from the start after taking a quick 11-2 lead in the first four minutes. MSU was excellent on defense through the first as they did not allow the Bearcats to hit a single field goal in the final three minutes.
MSU would go on to make six straight field goals on six attempts to end the first half, while dominating the paint against the Bearcats, 20-4. From that point on the Bearcats could not find their rhythm the rest of the game as there were multiple times of long scoring droughts credited by MSU’s excellent defensive efforts.
The Spartans outplayed the Bearcats in almost every statistical category tonight, including rebounds, assists, points in the paint and fastbreak points. MSU had a total of 25 assists opposed to the Bearcats nine and dominated the paint, 44-18.
“I think we started off really well. I think everyone was really excited to get back playing,” sophomore guard Taryn McCutcheon said. “We were running in transition, it was a really quick game at first. We stuck out and a win is a win. So it might have been a little ugly at the end, but we fought well.”
McCutcheon led the way with 19 points and nine assists, while redshirt senior guard Branndais Agee finished with a double-double scoring 10 points and collecting 10 rebounds.
“I thought we did a good job of sharing the ball and I thought we did a good job of focusing on getting the ball inside,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “They weren’t as big as us and I thought we did a good job of initially playing inside-out whether they were in a 2-3 zone or whether they were in man. So I think you get a lot of assists when you’re shooting two foot shots.”
The Bearcats were led by sophomore guard Genesis Parker who could not be stopped by finishing with a career-high 30 points on an impressive 10 of 12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds. It was a surprise attack from Parker which caught the Spartans off-guard, who only averages just under three points per game.
“That’s what I talked to the kids about” Merchant said. “I think some of our downfall this year is that next-level leadership. You know maybe she didn’t make the scouting report, but when she goes six for six in the first half or even hits her first couple; get somebody to step up. I just don’t think we’ve had that all year and we struggled in the leadership department when it comes to that.”
Junior center Jenna Allen added 15 points and seven rebounds, while senior forward Taya Reimer contributed with 16 points.
“You know it’s always a great to play in the postseason,” Allen said. “ I think we all have a little something to prove. You know we want to make the NCAA everybody does and coming into the NIT I think we have a really good chance of going far and everybody came out looking for a win.”
The Spartans will now move onto the second round where they will await the winner of the Toledo vs. Wright State matchup. They'll play the winner of that game at 7 p.m. Monday in East Lansing.