Sophomore guard Nia Clouden brought the heroics to West Lafayette. The Spartans (14-12, 7-8) edged Purdue (17-11, 8-8) 65-63, on a game-winner from the sophomore guard.
After the Boilermakers' redshirt junior forward Jenelle Grant knotted things up at 63 with 10 seconds left, MSU coach Suzy Merchant called her final timeout.
As she drew up the Spartans’ final play, Clouden sat directly in front of her, focused. As she has in the past, she was going to get the ball with a chance to win it.
With six seconds left and everything tied, Clouden inbounded the ball on the left wing, then drove right on several golden Purdue jerseys. Slashing to the finish, she laid the ball up before sinking back into the golden jerseys.
The ball rattled around the rim, deciding whether this game would be going to overtime. It bounced off the front iron and in, the Spartans gained the lead with 1.2 seconds remaining.
The full-court desperation shot fell short and the Spartans left West Lafayette with their third-straight win.
Clouden played hero for the Spartans, something Merchant has been waiting for as the Big Ten season gets closer to its finish.
Clouden and senior guard Taryn McCutcheon were the pair they needed to be, each scoring a team-high 14 points. Each had three rebounds, while Clouden had two assists and McCutcheon had three.
McCutcheon is now just 14 assists away from setting the Michigan State women’s basketball record.
While the guard play was crucial, sophomore Kayla Belles’ presence on the block can’t be overstated.
With 13 points on an effective 6-7 shooting, she provided 26 minutes of the consistent post-play the Spartans needed.
The win was not without hiccups, after jumping out to a hot start and a six-point lead after the first quarter, the Spartans slowed down.
Letting Purdue back in, they were outscored 14-4 in the second quarter.
But Purdue junior guard Karissa McLaughlin didn’t have a seven-point three pointer performance like last game. She was kept quiet with just 11 points on the night, and the lack of production from their top-scorer hurt.
Scoring 13 of her 14 points in the second half, Clouden helped the Spartans back into the game, with help from sophomore forward Tory Ozment’s six third quarter points.
After dropping five in a row, the Spartans are now winners of three straight. With momentum, the Spartans will head back to the Breslin Center for their second meeting with archrival Michigan on Sunday, Feb. 23.