The No. 15 Spartans continue their hot start of the season by defeating in-state foe Oakland, 76-56. While the score may show a dominant effort, the Golden Grizzlies made the green and white grind for a win on their home court.
In the first quarter, the Golden Grizzlies got off to a blazing hot start as they jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the first three minutes. Oakland guard Jalisha Terry led the Grizzlies in the first quarter with a quick 10 points off the bench, including a 3-pointer that gave Oakland the eight-point advantage.
The green and white did themselves no favors in the first, shooting 36% from the floor, including senior Taryn McCutcheon shooting 0-6 to start the game.
As the clock expired in the first, McCutcheon stepped back and hit a 3-pointer to bring the Spartans within a point.
The second quarter saw the East Lansing native drill two back-to-back 3s to get the team back on track and give the Spartans their biggest lead of the game.
McCutcheon’s shooting was complemented by super freshman, Taiyier Parks, and her stellar defensive effort that included two blocks along with six offensive rebounds in just the first half. Parks’ offensive rebounds led to many second chance opportunities, including a put-back layup to give the green and white a nine-point lead with 6:49 remaining in the second quarter. Parks was ecstatic to get the chance to gain some more minutes tonight.
“I was like ooo me?" Parks said. “I was shocked, but I knew that I had to come in and help the team as much as I could, and that’s what I did from the rebounding side.”
However, the Grizzlies kept up throughout the second quarter with a great defensive effort that forced Michigan State to shoot a dismal 30% from the floor.
”I think they played harder than us” redshirt junior Mardrekia Cook said. “I think we just kind of looked at it like, it's Oakland and we didn’t come out like how we did against Notre Dame."
The second half saw the Spartans continue to inch away from Oakland as the post play for Michigan State began to force their will on the Grizzlies. Kayla Belles, Cook, and Parks had a combined 31 points and 18 rebounds in this game. Cook in particular had a great game where she scored fourteen points, and that effort led to her starting in the second half.
“She (Cook) was a huge bright spot. I thought she really attacked the rim well," Head Coach Suzy Merchant said. “ ... I thought she played well at Notre Dame and I think tonight was another step forward.”
The Spartans were without two of their starters in this one, redshirt seniors Victoria “Coco” Gaines and Shay Colley. However, it was the next person up as Parks replaced Gaines’ rebounding with 10 on the game. Freshman Julia Ayrault was able to put in an all-around effort with six points, eight rebounds, and three blocks.
According to Merchant, Gaines rolled her ankle in practice yesterday.
“It was pretty sore and swollen, she came down pretty hard on someone’s foot,” Merchant said.
Along with Gaines' injury, Colley remained out after returning late last night from her stint with the Canadian women's national basketball team where she did not play. Coach Merchant said she would meet with Colley to see where she is with her injury and see whether she could return against Hartford.
Merchant’s squad also had an unusual off-night for shooting from the charity stripe, only shooting 7-15 from the line at a 46.7% clip.
“We just have to do a bit better job from finishing from there," Merchant said. “... It was just a flat game. ... I’m not worried about it, I just think we have to do a better job of being a little more efficient.”
With the “flat” night from the Spartans, Cook is determined to push the team to further heights.
“If we want to be the collegiate program like the men, for instance, we can’t have flat nights like this,” Cook said.
The No. 15 Spartans will take the court looking to continue their undefeated record this Sunday against the 0-4 Hartford Hawks.