ANN ARBOR — In the hostile environment at the Crisler Center Sunday afternoon, Michigan State women’s basketball (8-6) let the game slip late and fell to Michigan (11-3), 89-69.
"It was good for three quarters, then they just came out and drove right by us like we weren't there... You can be young and compete, our kids didn't compete in the post at all down there," Head Coach Suzy Merchant said.
Despite the loss, senior guard Taryn McCutcheon made her presence felt early in her last game at the Crisler Center, drilling a three on the Spartans' first possession.
The three would set the tone for the rest of her game. McCutcheon finished with 23 points, three rebounds and one assist.
After holding a 10-9 lead four minutes into the game, the Spartans would play from behind for the rest. To the players, it seemed like Michigan wanted it more.
"I feel like we went through a really bad slump that we just couldn't get ourselves out of and I really feel like Michigan played way harder than us. They wanted this game more than us and it showed," redshirt junior forward Mardrekia Cook said.
Although the Wolverines led for a majority of the game, both teams shot the ball fairly evenly. The Spartans shot 39% from the three-point line and 71% in their free throw attempts. They saw their field goal percentage dwindle though, as time ran down and more desperation shots came in the fourth period.
Michigan found their edge on the boards and in the paint. Out-rebounding the Spartans by five, the Wolverines found their edge down low. Adding on to their dominance on the board, they scored 54 points in the paint.
But Michigan State wouldn’t go away.
Finishing out the third period going nine for 11 from the field, the Spartans would turn an eight-point Michigan lead to just a one-point deficit. The run would send the Go Green chant through enemy territory from the slivers of Spartan fans in the stands.
Michigan would withstand the push, extending the lead past double digits in the final period of the game.
Defensively, Michigan State wasn't there. In the second half Michigan shot 77.8 percent from the field.
"We were well prepared for this game, like I said it's a big game, it's rivarly week and we didn't come out on top," Cook said.
"At the end of the day, we don't always have the best offensive game, but we always bring it on defense and today I just feel like our defense wasn't there."
The Spartans had no answer for Michigan’s sophomore forward Naz Hillmon and sophomore guard Amy Dilk. Hillmon finished with 21 points and 12 boards. Dilk added 23 points, five rebounds and three assists.
The Spartans struggled with turnovers. Coughing up the ball 18 times, the Wolverines capitalized with 14 points off of turnovers.
In the loss, the Spartans found a bright spot from their bench, with Cook scoring 13 of MSU's 32 bench points.
Michigan's victory will set the Spartans back to 1-2 in the Big Ten, but they know what they have to do to bounce back.
"It's Michigan, Michigan State rivalry. It's obviously a big deal when you win and it's a big deal when you lose. So you go in and you fix what's wrong and you go into the next game and take it out on the next team. Whoever it is I'm sorry, it's gonna happen, glad we get them at home," McCutcheon said.
The Spartans will head back on the road for another Big Ten game on Jan. 9, when they play Penn State.