The Spartans were electric in their Senior Day celebration game. It was all smiles from the court to the bench as Michigan State women’s basketball (16-13, 9-9), starting their four seniors, routed Penn State (7-22, 1-17) 99-80.
Their performance was impressive, firing up early with an 11-0 run to start the game, but the players who stole the show only played 56 seconds.
Senior guard Shay Colley and redshirt senior Victoria Gaines have fought injuries all year. Colley, just two games back from injury, and Gaines, who hasn’t played since Dec. 28 against Indiana because of a knee injury, were both in the starting lineup on Sunday along with senior guard Taryn McCutcheon and senior forward Nia Hollie.
After 56 seconds and one Victoria Gaines assist, the pair checked out, kissing the Spartan helmet as they exited.
"Even if it was just to kiss the Spartan head, that to me is just one of the coolest things," head coach Suzy Merchant said, "Just brings tears to my eyes when anybody does it... Michigan State is a special place and that kiss means something and you spent four years here, but you got 40, 50 as a Spartan from here on and we're always gonna be family."
In the first three minutes of the game, McCutcheon drilled two three-pointers. That was just the start of her day.
The rest of the Spartans did their job. They brought the energy and sent their regular season out with a bang, carrying momentum into the postseason.
Coming out fast, the Spartans moved the ball in transition and moved it well. They finished with 28 assists on 35 baskets.
McCutcheon scored 15 points, adding three rebounds and nine assists. She made Senior Day memorable, breaking Michigan State women's basketball's all-time assist record with a dime to Hollie in the third quarter.
"Tonight was about as good as it gets I think," McCutcheon said, "The crowd, the support and the love that you feel, that is a great representation of the last four years."
"We had fun out there... This was one of the best moments I've had since I've been here, it might be the best one."
It took a few quarters for Hollie to get her points on Senior Day, but the forward rain-dropped a floater with 2:11 left in the third quarter. Hollie scored again on the next possession and finished with six points.
As much as Senior Day was about honoring the seniors, it also symbolized a passing of the torch.
Sophomore guard Nia Clouden exploded on the offensive end, scoring 20 points. Sixteen of those points came in the first half.
Freshman forward Taiyier Parks and sophomore forward Kayla Belles had big games as well — Parks provided energy for the Spartans in the third quarter, scoring eight of her 13 points in it, and Belles was huge on the block with 16 points and eight rebounds. The Spartans had 58 points off the bench.
The win on Senior Day and their last game of the regular season put the Spartans at .500 in the Big Ten, an important number for them and 16-13 overall.
Now, the Spartans turn their attention to the Big Ten Tournament, which starts on Wednesday, March 4.