Michigan State women’s basketball has been on a roll, knocking off Ohio State, Wisconsin and Rutgers in its last three games. The Spartans have climbed back to an 11-7 record, crawling above .500 in the Big Ten.
Despite injuries dragging the span of the Spartans' season, taking some of their senior leaders out of play with redshirt senior guard Shay Colley and senior forward Victoria Gaines out with no timetable, they have found a way to win big games late.
As younger players have been forced to step up as leaders, senior guard and captain Taryn McCutcheon has been leading the team with a broken finger on her shooting hand.
“Even having Taryn’s presence out there today, we weren’t sure she was going to play with her broken finger and her achilles issue. She’s just a warrior,” coach Merchant said after the Spartans win against Ohio State. “Taryn just fought through some things … For Taryn to even score any points in that game, basically shot every shot left handed, except for one, was just amazing. She’s just got a lot of heart.”
Where McCutcheon’s leadership ends, sophomore guard Nia Clouden’s pure scoring ability and clutch genes have taken over.
Clouden has averaged 15.4 points a game throughout the year, including drilling a game-winner against Ohio State and making key plays late to secure a win against 15-3 Rutgers on the road.
Freshman guard Moira Joiner has stepped up as a scoring outlet for the Spartans, earning respect from Merchant early because of her work ethic.
While the Spartans have been able to piece together wins in their last couple, getting more comfortable with the short-handed lineup they have been with due to injuries, one of their biggest challenges still awaits on Thursday Jan. 23.
No. 22 Northwestern sits atop the Big Ten standings at 6-1 and have won nine of their last 10 games. Led by junior guard Lindsey Pulliam, averaging 18.3 points per game, the Wildcats’ record has dubbed them a place in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2016.
Still holding a perfect record at home, the Spartans will not be the only team heading into Thursday with a streak on the line. Northwestern remains undefeated away from home at 5-0 and are the only Big Ten team that hasn’t lost on the road.
After adding several marquee wins during Big Ten play, the Spartans have poised themselves for a strong start to the second half of their season and heading into their biggest conference thus far, could break back into the Top 25 for the first time since December.
Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at the Breslin Center on National Girls and Women in Sports Day and will be aired on BTN+.