Michigan State women’s basketball (10-7, 3-3 in Big Ten) stayed perfect at home in a grudge match with Ohio State (10-7, 3-3) that came down to the final shot on Thursday night. After pulling ahead with 13.4 seconds left in the game, the Spartans would hold on for a 68-65 win.
"We're young, so you're gonna probably have those situations a lot ... For us to be in close games, those are good things, obviously they are better when you're at home, get the crowd involved," coach Suzy Merchant said.
All four quarters the game were tightly knit. Weaving in and out of 10 lead changes and through nine ties, neither team could find space and the Spartans' offense didn’t show up until the second half.
Trading blows back and forth throughout the final minutes of the game, Buckeye freshman guard Madison Greene would give them a two-point lead with 23 seconds left.
Like sophomore guard Nia Clouden does, she delivered.
With 13.4 seconds left, Clouden sunk an and-one jumper. Drilling the extra opportunity and giving the Spartans a one-point lead.
Clouden found herself guarding Greene on the next possession.
Forcing herself to the line again, Clouden gave the Spartans a three-point lead with six seconds left, and it would be enough for the win.
Clouden provided the Spartans with 20 points and six assists.
"She's definitely our go-to, there's no question about that," Merchant said. "She can make plays, she can finish at the rim, she gets fouled. She does a good job understanding time-score possession situations.
"She just finds a way. She's simple the way she approaches the game."
But the focus was controlling the game on defense — shutting down the Buckeyes' top scorers: sophomore forward Dorka Juhasz, freshman guard Kierstan Bell and freshman guard Madison Greene were kept silent throughout the game.
Holding the trio to just 7-25 shooting, and the team as a whole to 40%.
Ohio State killed the Spartans from the three-point line in the first half, making the extra pass to provide multiple open threes. The Buckeyes shot 5-10 from three in the first two periods. The Spartans wouldn’t let the Buckeyes get that success in the second half, holding the Buckeye shooters to just a 25% clip.
Still struggling with injury, freshman forward Julia Ayrault was added to the list of Spartans out, while redshirt junior forward Mardrekia Cook made her return.
Despite a rough first half, Cook stepped up for the Spartans, scoring eight of her 10 points in the second half.
"I knew that even though I turned the ball over, did whatever I did in the first half, I needed to forget about that," Cook said.
"I knew that once I came out there, my coach was gonna continue to go to me, it's just what I make out of the opportunity ... To come up with those plays was amazing because like I said, the first half I almost was like 'leave Nia Hollie in', but it's nice to know that people are so confident in me."
The last second victory kept Michigan State a perfect 8-0 at home and pushed them back to 3-3 in the Big Ten.
Michigan State will head back on the road in their next contest, traveling to Rutgers on Jan. 20.
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