Michigan State women's basketball (8-6, 1-2) has dropped six of its last nine games and has only won one of its three conference games thus far. In every one of these games the Spartans have held a lead and, like at Michigan on Jan. 5, haven’t been able to close games out.
Looking to turn things around, the Spartans are traveling to meet Penn State (6-8, 0-3) in another Big Ten battle Thursday night, the final game of their road trip.
Without redshirt senior guard Shay Colley and senior forward Victoria Gaines, the team has gotten a lot younger through the course of the season. Losing Gaines put all underclassmen in the paint.
Penn State has had a similar season, struggling to pull out wins despite having a strong scorer in junior guard Kamaria McDaniel, who averages 19.1 points per game. Through their first three Big Ten games, McDaniel has averaged 23.3 points per game, second in the conference.
With senior guard Taryn McCutcheon and sophomore guard Nia Clouden in what could be an All-American backcourt for the Spartans, this game could spiral into a shootout between the guards and McCutcheon is ready for it.
McCutcheon has averaged 12.3 points in her senior campaign and put up 23 points in her last outing against Michigan. Clouden has been the Spartans' most consistent scorer, averaging 15.1 points throughout the year, but has been quiet as of late, only scoring eight points in her last game.
But after the Spartans' loss against Michigan, they stressed that defense was their strong suit and after not showing any fight against Michigan’s 78% shooting in the second half, they have emphasized getting back to the basics.
"We just got to gel together. It's adversity, it's always been adversity here and like I said, we just got to pick at it, chip at it, chip at it," redshirt junior forward Mardrekia Cook said. "We got to develop our younger players now and let them know that now is their time, because sometimes life just happens. (Gaines) happened to be out and now we just need a five player presence in the post."
"We got to get in the gym more, we just need to hit shots. We've been in a drought, I feel like, the whole season," Cook said. "We haven't had a game where we just shot the ball incredible, like the way Michigan just shot the ball. I think that's what's killing us right now. You're playing so hard on defense, then boom your shot isn't going in. It will take a lot out of you."
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. in University Park, Pennsylvania and can be watched on BTN+.