SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On March 23, the No. 9 seeded Michigan State Spartans (21-11, 9-9 Big Ten) defeated the No. 8 seeded Central Michigan Chippewas (25-8, 15-3 MAC), 88-87, after a last second Shay Colley layup.
“I feel like we celebrated for a little while after the game, but then our focus immediately turned to Notre Dame. Of course they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Senior Jenna Allen said after the victory.
Top-seeded Notre Dame (30-3, 14-2 ACC) defeated No. 16 seed Bethune-Cookman (21-11, 11-5 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), 92-50, sending the Fighting Irish to the second round of the tournament.
“Honestly, I’m just happy to be one step closer to our goal,” Notre Dame's senior guard Marina Mabrey said about the convincing first round win. “Coming out and playing like that in the first game, is good momentum going into the second game. I think we were focused and did well as a team.”
The Fighting Irish have the home-court advantage and are familiar with the Spartans’ game play after defeating MSU 90-59 on Dec. 6, 2017 in the ACC-BIG Ten challenge as well as having a closed-exhibition game in October.
“It was early,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said about the pre-season matchup. “I don’t think we could look at that and say ‘this is what we’re going to face’ because both teams have improved a lot.”
As for scouting the competition, both teams have been focusing on the other’s strengths.
“They have posts that can shoot the three, so we’re definitely going to need to be aware of them and our posts are going to have to spread out and guard the lane,” senior guard Arike Ogunbowale said about the outside threat the Spartans' game plan brings to the table. “We got to defend the three and stay to our principles.”
On the other hand, the Spartans will face a tough challenge in the tempo that Notre Dame typically plays.
“For sure they’re are up tempo and their physicality, I remember from last year and this year they’re just the same team,” redshirt junior guard Shay Colley said about the second round challenge. “They play well together and that is something we will be ready for tomorrow.”
The Joyce Center will be hosting the game with a tipoff at 7 p.m. ESPN will be broadcasting the game.
“We're just pleased to be here. Survive and advance is the name of the game,” head coach Suzy Merchant said after defeating her alma mater where up until this season, held the school's record for most assists. “We’re lucky enough to play Notre Dame.”