Tuesday, April 7, 2020

PREVIEW: Michigan State women's basketball looks to stay hot against Michigan

The Spartans aim to extend their three-game winning streak in a win over their rivals

February 23, 2020
Sophomore forward Kayla Belles (42) shoots over a defender during the women's basketball game against Rutgers at the Breslin Center on February 13, 2020. The Spartans ended a five game losing streak and defeated the Scarlet Knights 57-53.
Sophomore forward Kayla Belles (42) shoots over a defender during the women's basketball game against Rutgers at the Breslin Center on February 13, 2020. The Spartans ended a five game losing streak and defeated the Scarlet Knights 57-53. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball (14-12, 7-8) looks to stay hot at home Sunday in their matchup against rival Michigan (17-9, 8-7). 

Following sophomore Nia Clouden’s game-winning layup with 1.2 seconds left against Purdue, the Spartans are the winners of three straight after a five-game skid saw them fall below .500 for the first time all season. Their win streak has been fueled by the dynamic play of their underclassmen and the resurgence of a balanced offensive attack based on sound shooting and aggressiveness in the paint.

Senior Taryn McCutcheon, sophomore Kayla Belles and Clouden were all double digit scorers in the 65-63 win against Purdue, contributing 41 combined points on the road. After putting up 14 points against the Boilermakers, Clouden has scored at least 10 points in each of the last seven games.

Clouden said that this consistency comes from a willingness to provide effort and energy every game.

"I think if I play hard every game, good things will happen," she said. "And it can go from me and spread to the rest of my teammates.

"I just try to play hard and do my job when I'm out there."

With only three games left in the regular season, the Spartans will have to maintain this high level of play in order to finish strong. It continues with an attempt to avenge their 89-69 loss to Michigan on Jan. 5, a road matchup where McCutcheon posted her season high of 23 points.

The Wolverines are 2-2 in their last four games and headlined by sophomore Naz Hillmon, the fifth best scorer and sixth best rebounder in the Big Ten. In her young career, Hillmon has averaged 21.7 points against Michigan State and proven herself to be one of the most dynamic players in a storied rivalry.

Hillmon also boasts the second best field goal percentage in the conference, making 56.8% of her attempts from the field. Her efficiency is complemented by sophomore Amy Dilk's recent scoring run, averaging 15.3 points over her last four games.

In order to make a push, Michigan State will have to stay hot and match this production as they aim to extend their winning streak to four straight.

Tipoff is set for 5:00 p.m. at the Breslin Center.

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