Fourth quarter surge propels Michigan State past East Tennessee State
Michigan State women’s basketball (2-0) earned a 75-53 victory in a hard-fought nonconference matchup against East Tennessee State (0-2), and the game was much closer than the score indicated on Sunday. The Spartans shot 45.6 percent from the floor and held ETSU to 35.1 percent shooting.
The Buccaneers of ETSU played the Spartans as close as they would’ve liked until the fourth quarter.
“We definitely competed. We play for one another; we play for coach,” sophomore forward Sidney Cooks said postgame. “When Shay (Colley) went down, we all felt that we all really wanted to work for her and we got each other's back. So it was just a good game. We always compete against them. It's always a good battle when we go against them so I'm glad we got the win.”
After MSU opened the game on a 5-0 run, ETSU built its biggest lead (nine points) seven minutes in at 16-7. A three by junior guard Taryn McCutcheon and layups by Cooks and junior forward Victoria Gaines brought the Spartans within four as the second quarter started at 18-14.
In the second, with MSU down two, junior guard Shay Colley stripped ETSU's Erica Haynes-Overton, leading to a Cooks fast-break score and a 19-18 MSU lead. Cooks became MSU’s heart and soul in the quarter, as she blocked shots on back-to-back possessions with four minutes left in the half.
MSU stretched the lead to 32-29 at the end of the half.
In the third, MSU quietly took over the contest like they set out to do coming into this matchup. The Spartans stretched their three-point lead at halftime to a 10-point, 55-45 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The run featured the Cook-Cooks duo off the bench for MSU, as sophomore forward Mardrekia Cook and Sidney Cooks rounded out a big lineup that contrasted the usual small-ball lineup and ignited a spark in a crucial stretch for the Spartans.
“I think Nia Clouden adding to Taryn and Shay bring a lot of ability to bring great energy to the defensive side as well, as well as handling any kind of pressure and attack,” MSU coach Suzy Merchant said. “So I think that's positive. And then we've been able to move some people around at the four position where last year definitely our fives were more five-like.”
Cooks would finish with 14 points and four blocks while Cook added 12 points, as each recorded eight rebounds.
As ETSU pulled within one in the opening minute of the third on a Anajae Stephney jumper, and again at 38-37 on a Britney Snowden layup, MSU began a run that would all but cement the victory.
Ensuing back-to-back fast-break layups by Cook would stretch the lead to five for MSU. Cooks would do her part a minute later, adding a free throw and a corner three from McCutcheon to give MSU a 46-37 lead.
As ETSU fought to combat the MSU run with a three of its own, Cook would respond with another basket inside to claim a 48-40 lead.
After completing a steal and score and stretching the lead to 54-43 with 1:45 left in the quarter, junior guard Shay Colley was helped off the court after an injury and would not return to the game.
The quarter would end at 55-45 in favor of MSU.
With Colley out for the game, freshman guard Nia Clouden was forced to fill the void, as she started to grow up right before the Spartan faithful’s eyes.
The freshman hit a corner three to open up the fourth quarter for the Spartans, creating a comfortable 13-point lead. MSU shot 66.7 percent from three in the fourth.
With 2:16 left, Clouden put an exclamation point on the Spartans’ effort by finishing a runner through contact, stretching the lead to 73-53.
Michigan State continues its home stretch next Sunday against Wright State at 1 p.m. at the Breslin Center.