Sunday, September 27, 2020

FINAL: Michigan State women's basketball edged 65-57 by Michigan, Naz Hillmon

After making their way back from a 15-point deficit, Spartans fall late

February 23, 2020
<p>Sophomore guard Tory Ozment (1) looks to pass during the women&#x27;s basketball game against Michigan at the Breslin Center on February 23, 2020. The Spartans fell to the Wolverines 65-57. </p>

Sophomore guard Tory Ozment (1) looks to pass during the women's basketball game against Michigan at the Breslin Center on February 23, 2020. The Spartans fell to the Wolverines 65-57.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

The Spartans should trademark the third-quarter run. After trailing by 15 points going into the half, Michigan State women’s basketball (14-13, 7-9) rallied back to a fourth-quarter lead, but Michigan (18-9, 9-7) was able to handle their push, pulling away with a 65-57 victory.

The Breslin Center was packed for the game as fans flooded in and filled the arena from top to bottom with pink, for breast cancer awareness.

After trailing by 15 at the half, sophomore Tory Ozment would start a huge third quarter with for the Spartans by drilling a three with 8:45 left. What Ozment started then ignited the Breslin and led to a 18-7 third-quarter run.

Carrying the momentum into the fourth, sophomore guard Nia Clouden erased the Wolverines’ 15-point lead with a layup with 7:58 remaining, giving the Spartans a one-point lead.

But Michigan sophomore forward Naz Hillmon regained the lead quickly with an and-one layup, putting the Wolverines up two.

Her and-one started a 7-0 run and kept the Spartans down for the rest of the game.

1"Just really trying to get those stops," Hillmon said, "Just taking pride in our defense, making sure we had our rotations and trying to take away what they were doing ... I think it was our defense that really fueled us."

Michigan was able to squeak out of the Breslin with a victory.

"I think they were able to get that moment back and get it in control for them," senior guard Taryn McCutcheon said.

"They just settled down, because we had those couple possessions where we really could've made a run and we kind of didn't capitalize on those."

The Spartans slumped back into their shooting woes at the most inopportune time. Shooting just 31.1% from the field and 60% from the free throw line, it was a struggle to find consistency. 

"I thought our fight was good, I just think we gotta be able to score the ball better," MSU coach Suzy Merchant said.

But offense wasn’t the only issue. Post play killed the Spartans.

"(Hillmon) and the other post player that came in gave them 36 points, ours gave us three," Merchant said.

"36 to three, as a five-man, that's a pretty powerful difference."

With senior forward Victoria Gaines and redshirt junior forward Mardrekia Cook out for the year, every team with any post presence has used it to their advantage.

Michigan has arguably the best frontcourt player in the Big Ten, and the Spartans were reminded of that.

Hillmon followed up her 21-point performance against the Spartans in Ann Arbor on Jan. 5 with an even bigger game, finishing with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

The Spartans were out-rebounded overall, 49-29.

Clouden led the Spartan scorers with 18. McCutcheon was shortly behind, with 14 of her own.

Redshirt senior guard Shay Colley played in her first game since Dec. 28 against Indiana, but in her limited minutes scored just two points. Despite the limited minutes, Colley's presence was felt by her teammates.

Despite forcing 22 turnovers, the Spartans were unable to secure a victory, snapping their three-game win streak.

With two games left, Michigan State travels to Illinois on Wednesday before playing their last home game and regular season game against Penn State on March 1.

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