We’re one game into the regular season for the women’s basketball team, so that means we automatically know everything about the Spartans now.
Just kidding. But, after one game, we did get to see things that give us a sense of what this team will look like in the months ahead. Here are the takeaways after the Spartans were able to dismantle the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
The first half was a bit of a wakeup call for MSU. The Eagles got to a quick 5-0 lead to start and eventually pushed the lead up to nine with 6:13 left to go in the first half before the Spartans finally snapped out of the funk they were in.
Even with the team struggling, sophomore guard Nia Clouden exploded during the first half, scoring 16 of the Spartans' 31 points. Not only was she scoring, she was doing it efficiently shooting at a 50% clip for the game.
“She’s as consistent as they come," Head Coach Suzy Merchant said. " ... She’s been that way half to half, quarter to quarter, practice to practice.”
If Clouden can continue to play at this rate, then look out.
The Spartans began the day by pressing the Eagles from the inbound pass. The result? A staggering 17 steals. Michigan State used the press sparingly but, when it was used, it was extremely effective.
The speed and lateral quickness of the Spartan guards make it a true pain in the rear to get to the other half of the court. When they decide to use the press, it’s almost like the team is saying, “You can get to the other side, but you’re going to have to fight for it.”
If this is something the Spartans continue, it could take them to the next level they're chasing — a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance.
While she might not have had the biggest night, McCutcheon showed why she's the current face of MSU women’s basketball.
After being held to only two shots in the first half, Taryn came out the gates with a blaze of fury in the second half. She hit back to back threes in transition to propel the Spartans to a nine point lead with 5:59 remaining in the third period.
She wasn’t the star, but she also showed some of the fire that she brings to the team. It’s her ability to score points in bunches and the IT factor she brings that could bring MSU to title contention.
The post-play has to improve
In the first half, the Spartans were out-rebounded 23-20 by Eastern Michigan. The leading rebounder for the Spartans was redshirt senior guard Shay Colley. Yes, a guard. Not to mention that Colley was carried off the floor after injuring her left leg.
If Michigan State is going to compete in the rough and rugged Big Ten, they cannot be out-rebounded by a Mid-American Conference team. The size is only going to get bigger from here, and this won’t cut it.
“The first half they had 20 points in the paint, which was insane," Merchant said. “That was all we preached. Second half, they had six (points in the paint). So, clearly they could do it, it was just a matter of intent.”
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Players like Coco Gaines and Kayla Belles are going to need to establish their presence inside because the guards might have nights like this where they can’t shoot well and they need a post-game to turn to.
We have another point guard with the last name Winston, and this one can ball, too. The young freshman immediately made an impact when she stepped on the floor, finishing with 14 points in just 12 minutes.
Her speed is something to behold. Not only does it result in highlight plays on the offensive end, but it creates a pesky defensive presence as well. Her closeouts on shooters were baffling as she seemed to fly from each end of the court in her first game.
"She’s the fastest I know. Having to guard her in practices sometimes is so annoying," Clouden said. "She’s going to be really good ... later in the season and further in her college career."
If Alyza can play like this consistently, and provide quality relief minutes for McCutcheon, this team will have one of the best backcourts in the country.
The Spartans will look to build on their last performance against another in-state rival, Detroit Mercy, on Friday.
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