Women's basketball's regular season officially started Tuesday night with a resounding 99-69 win over Bowling Green, in which the Spartans dominated from start to finish.
“It’s a good place to start,” coach Suzy Merchant said in her postgame press conference, “we’ve got a lot of work to do. It was a good starting point, and I thought Bowling Green played extremely hard, Robyn’s (Fralick) going to get that thing turned around. You can see a lot of the stuff she does.”
The Spartans started off strong with a 10-0 run in the first two minutes of game with starters, freshman guard Nia Clouden, junior guard Taryn McCutcheon, junior forward Victoria Gaines, junior guard Shay Colley and senior center Jenna Allen.
“Today was my last first game. It was tough," Allen said. "You know being an Indiana kid, I didn’t know a lot about Michigan State until I came here four years ago. This community, this fan-base, this program means so much to me now. It’s going to be hard to leave.”
“I’m excited, this team is different from others where we’re the underdogs this year. I’m excited to have that role and just prove people wrong,” she added.
Allen led the Spartans, recording a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds. The guard duties were split between McCutcheon and freshman Nia Clouden. McCutcheon had double-double as well, with 16 points and 12 assists. Clouden also had an impact on the scoring for the Spartans with her 14 points and three rebounds.
MSU scored 40 points on fast break opportunities, while the defense held Bowling Green to only 25 points in transition. The Spartans had 20 turnovers, and were pressured from a very physical Falcon defense.
“I thought we weren’t really ready for that 2-1-2 buzz-like zone they played at the end," Merchant said. "She’s (Fralick) really an all man coach, so that was something, we have zone offenses obviously, but we really didn’t spend a lot of time on working on that. I thought that bothered us a bit and slowed us down.”
The Falcons had a 15-point scoring run in the middle of the fourth quarter, catching the Spartans off guard. Merchant said the Spartans will work on this to ensure that when it comes to big games, their defense won’t be surprised by their opponents game strategy.
“You can’t just get bored, I mean this game with three point shots, especially with the pace they play,” Merchant said.
McCutcheon reiterated Merchant's advice on fighting off complacency.
“Coach was getting on us for getting bored, honestly that does happen, we can’t do that,” McCutcheon said on the fourth quarter slump. “Bowling Green, they’re a good team, they’re really fast and like she (Merchant) said, they could come back into it just like that and you don’t even see it coming. So when we play even better teams in the Big Ten … we can’t sit back and get bored or think that we have it in the bag, because that’s not going to work. Really good teams will come back and get over that hump and we’re going to be in trouble. So we just have to keep that little consistency throughout the game.”
The shift in the Falcon’s energy and effort surprised the Spartans, but it wasn't enough to win the contest.
“And like I said, last year we had really good players, but it just seemed like if Shay (Colley) didn’t show up, we struggled at times," Merchant said. "Tonight she didn’t play as well early, she definitely played better later in the half. She didn’t play as well as she did in the Hillsdale game, and so to see other kids step up, I thought Taryn played really, really hard and really well."
The Spartans will host East Tennessee State (0-0) Sunday at 1 p.m.