Tuesday, September 27, 2022

FINAL: Clouden, Winston combine for 40 in 79-70 win over Central Michigan

December 18, 2020
<p>Nia Clouden (24) attacks the room against Central Michigan in the Spartans&#x27; 79-70 win on Dec. 18, 2020. MSU improved to 5-0 with the win.</p>

Nia Clouden (24) attacks the room against Central Michigan in the Spartans' 79-70 win on Dec. 18, 2020. MSU improved to 5-0 with the win.

Photo by Joe Dandron | The State News

Central Michigan got hot early.

Michigan State and the deadly duo of Nia Clouden and Alyza Winston put it together late.

On Friday, in a 79-70 win over Central Michigan in women's basketball, Clouden and Winston combined for 40 points to lead the Spartans to a second 5-0 start in as many years. Clouden scored 21 to lead the Spartans and her sidekick, Winston scored 19. Both had an array of drives, pull-up jumpers and free throws.

It was Clouden's final free throw of the game, which followed an and-1 layup with 7:54 left in the fourth that bled into a 10-0 run by MSU to close out the Chippewas.

"I think those two can be a really nice one-two punch," Head Coach Suzy Merchant said after the win. "You can see they both have that little elevate pull-up jumper. They can shoot the three. Alyza's probably a better three-point shooter than Clouden. Clouden's probably a better north and south driver. They both can get to the free-throw line. Those kids are going to be a big part of what we do."

The pair combined for 13 free throws on 14 attempts and 12-of-24 shooting from the field. Winston's pair of free throws and Clouden's pull-up at the elbow with 3:10 left in the game capitalized their performances and the 10-0 run that lasted more than three minutes, essentially icing the game.

"It feels great," Winston said. "I think we definitely complement each other. I think that Nia's definitely a better driver than me, and I'm a better shooter than her, so when she's driving she always looks to kick. If I don't have an open shot then I'm looking for her. ... That's going be big for us this year."

Second-half offense helps Spartans pull away

Michigan State shot 53.8% in the second half of Friday's game after leading 40-39 at the break.

Despite the Chippewas bouncing back time and time again behind a 26-point outing from senior guard Micaela Kelly, MSU was able to punch right back with answer after answer despite CMU making 15 3-pointers in the game.

"I thought it was just the way that we buckled down defensive, and I thought Tori (Ozment) was a big part of that, especially on Micaela Kelly," Merchant said.

Kelly, who recently scored 29 points in the Chippewas' last game against Miami (Ohio), was a problem for MSU all afternoon.

The senior guard knocked down shots all game, notably six three-pointers, despite only being 4-of-9 last game.

But Clouden said that playing against the guards MSU has, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark scored 35 in the Spartans 86-82 win over the Hawkeyes, prepares the team for what's in store the rest of the year.

"They're (games like this) really valuable," Clouden said. "Especially as we get deeper into our schedule. The Big Ten has a lot of really good guards like Iowa did and Central Michigan has really good guards as well, so its important to face those challenges earlier in the season."

Michigan State will face off against Northern Illinois at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 20 at the Breslin Center.

"I think this team plays really well together," Clouden said. "... The difference I feel like, right now, is we play really well together ... We're playing off of each other."

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