Sunday afternoon No. 19 Michigan State women’s basketball (7-2), finally made their way back to basketball, when they welcomed Morehead State into the Breslin.
Coming off a string of road trips to the Bahamas and Florida, then jumping right into exam week, the Spartans had a lot on their plate leading up to their meeting with the Eagles. The trials and tribulations of the Spartans' long stretch of being a college athlete during exams didn't show in their first game away from school.
In an entire team effort, the Spartans routed the Eagles 93-48.
"We were hoping that would be the case, we come off exams, we just came off that ACC Challenge game, into a 10-day period of exams and what not, you want yourself to improve as a team, you want individually, everyone to improve," coach Suzy Merchant said following the win.
"I thought we shared the ball really well, we had 26 assists on 37 field goals, so I think that's a pretty good place to start."
The Spartans jumped out to a big lead early and rode the early success through the entire game.
Senior and sophomore guards Taryn McCutcheon and Nia Clouden acted as the teams catalysts on offense early, combining for 10 points while shooting four of five from the field.
With the offense flowing, the defense would follow, outscoring the Eagles 21-10 in the first period, setting the tone right away.
Freshman Julia Ayrault led all scorers with 14 points in the game and earned her first double-double by adding 11 rebounds to her effort.
What the Spartans did good in the first half, they did better in the second, in what was an offensive explosion and defensive statement.
Michigan State was rolling on all cylinders. The Spartans held the Eagles to 36 percent on the court, while forcing 21 turnovers.
"Lights out" could be the only way to describe the Spartans play.
Five Spartans reached double digits in the game and each member of the team contributed in one way or another. The two Spartans who didn't find the basket, aided their team with a combined three assists.
With 7:47 left in the fourth period, a pretty pass from McCutcheon, sneaking the ball into the paint for a freshman center Cydni Dodd bucket erupted the Spartans bench and summarized the day this team was having.
An entire team effort, that saw each Spartan find the court, propelled them to a team victory.
"It's awesome, that's one of my favorite things ever, because I want everyone to get in there because everyone is so good. It's exciting, when we get energy going on the bench like that, it keeps us going too, so I think that has been a really good thing for us," Ayrault said.
"Just keeping everyone engaged and everyone excited."
With 5:41 left, Merchant pulled McCutcheon out. Her starters began to filter out as the rotation began to expand, more so than it had over the course of the game. Each of the Spartans on the roster got to see minutes, even redshirt junior walk-on, Laurel Jacqmain.
Finishing out the game the way they started it, the second crew would continue to dominate in every category and increase their lead.
Michigan State ended with 26 assists and shooting 55% from the field. They scored on over half their possessions and 66 of their points came off the bench.
Even when the starters weren't out there, the bench would roll out what could be another starting five and every member of the team was loving it.
"When we get into situations where everyone gets to play, it's like this burst of excitement, like woah, I'm exicited go do well," redshirt senior forward Nia Hollie said, "I come out of the game and the first thing I tell someone else is 'go get buckets', do things, be great."
Following a 12 point career high for Hollie and a career first double-double for Ayrault, the Spartans would coast their way to a 93-48 victory.
Michigan State will head back on the road on Dec. 20, as they make their way back down to Florida for the Sunshine Classic where they will play both Syracuse and West Virginia.
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