Michigan State women’s basketball (14-13, 7-9) will travel to Champaign for their last road game of the regular season at Illinois (11-16, 2-14).
After a backbreaking third quarter comeback that saw Michigan State eventually sputter out in a 65-57 loss to rival Michigan, the Spartans look to start another winning streak against one of the lesser teams in the Big Ten.
Senior Taryn McCutcheon said her team needs to internalize their heartbreak from Michigan and use it to play a more down-to-earth style of basketball.
“I think, to some extent, we need to move on,” she said. “But, at the same time, I think that we need to take how bad it hurts and use that as motivation to the next team because anybody can beat anybody in the Big Ten. And I don’t think that we need to take (Illinois and Penn State) lightly and say, ‘Well, here’s another two wins’ because you don’t know that.
“I think we need to play a little more humble. ... We need to go into all these games thinking we’re down 10.”
While the Illini are the losers of four-straight and have only won two games in conference play, Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant echoed McCutcheon’s comments and said that they’re a lot better than what the record shows.
“They are good, they can shoot and they’re gonna be tough for us to guard,” she said.
Illinois is headlined by redshirt junior Petra Holešínská. Holešínská leads the team in scoring at 13.5 points per game and has shot 43.1% from the arc, the third best percentage in the Big Ten.
Holešínská isn’t the only capable shooter on the team. The Illini hold the fifth best three-pointing percentage team in the conference, shooting at a 34.4% clip from deep as a team.
Freshman forward Kennedi Myles leads the team in rebounding, blocked shots and steals for a team that’s been able to accumulate a 9-8 record at home. With the Spartans coming to town on Senior Night, Illinois will have more than enough motivation to play their hardest.
McCutcheon said the Spartans have to match that intensity and lay it all on the line if they want to finish the season strong.
“We need to buckle down right now and win these last two games,” she said. “It would mean a lot to this team because we are fighting. I think that we still have a lot in us that we’re not bringing out, that maybe we don’t understand that we have.”
Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. at State Farm Center.