Michigan State women’s basketball (11-12, 4-8) will attempt to break their losing streak at home against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (17-6, 7-5).
After Monday's 85-55 loss to No. 19 Northwestern, the Spartans are the losers of five in a row amid injuries and inconsistent play. Senior guard Taryn McCutcheon said that she knows her team can win with their current roster despite confusion over recent struggles.
“I think everybody’s just kind of lost about why this is happening, just because we have so much talent,” she said. “And I know that injuries are really hard to battle, especially season-ending injuries with (Mardrekia Cook and Victoria Gaines), like a lot of things you can’t fix, but I still think that we have enough talent to be not getting beat by 30."
When asked about how she’s been leading the Spartans through this rough patch, McCutcheon said that she’s emphasized working through adversity as opposed to talking about it.
“As somebody who doesn’t have an answer, I just come in and try to give everything that I have left,” she said. “It’s not working to just talk. ... Because, I mean, we forget how it feels to win.
“Everybody wants to win. But do we want to do what it takes to win right now is the question.”
The Spartans have shot 36.46% and 25.7% from the field and arc, respectively, over their five-game slump. Coach Suzy Merchant said her team has focused on taking advantage of open shots and second chances when they present themselves.
“This game isn’t hard, just can’t make it harder by missing wide open opportunities,” she said. “So, if you want to get over the hump, our veteran kids got to put the ball in the basket and we need to get that third score, that post score. We need a few more people to come to life offensively.”
Turnovers have also posed a significant problem for MSU over the last two games, with 51 combined points off turnovers contributing to blowout losses against No. 19 Northwestern and No. 10 Maryland. Merchant said that she’s taken extra measures in practice to ensure that the Spartans are better at taking care of the ball.
“We have to do a better job,” she said. “(In practice), if that group turns it over, when that possession’s over, they run a sprint. It’s not ideal, but we got to start valuing the ball a little more.”
Rutgers is headlined by redshirt junior Arella Guirantes, the third-best scorer in the Big Ten. In MSU’s last win, a 66-55 triumph over Rutgers on Jan. 20, she recorded a season-high 28 points.
Merchant praised Guirantes’ scoring ability in all offensive situations.
“She’s just a very talented kid,” she said. “She’s just a prolific scorer, she can elevate over people and the best way to stop her is to try not to let her get it which is hard to do because she works really hard to get the ball. She’s very efficient when she gets it but the biggest thing is the kid can just athletically elevate over us, create her own shot, whether it be shot clock situations or within the offense.”
The Scarlet Knights have been an elite defensive unit this year, holding opponents to an average of 55.3 points per game. McCutcheon said that while their defense is tough, the Spartans are looking to match their intensity on the offensive side of the ball.
“They’re just really rough,” she said. “They foul so much that (the refs) can’t call everything, you know what I’m saying? They get away with a lot of stuff because that’s just the way they play.
“I think we were tough when we played them ... and we were rough with them back. We got a few foul calls because of that, but I mean, it was worth it,” she said.
“So our plan is just to go back and fight and scrap with them.”
Tipoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at the Breslin Center.