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FINAL: MSU 81, Minnesota 68, Winston and Clouden combine for 45 points

December 10, 2020
<p>Players on MSU&#x27;s women&#x27;s basketball team cheer for their teammates during their game against Detroit Mercy on Dec. 02, 2020.</p>

Players on MSU's women's basketball team cheer for their teammates during their game against Detroit Mercy on Dec. 02, 2020.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

MINNEAPOLIS — An early 16-0 run pushed the Michigan State women’s basketball team (3-0) past Minnesota (1-2) Wednesday night. The Spartans defeated the Gophers 81-68 in their first Big Ten game of the season. 

After losing the tipoff and going down 2-0, the Spartans went on a 16-0 run led by junior guard Nia Clouden. Clouden came out of the gate on fire going 5-5 from the field totaling 14 points in the first quarter. 

The defensive pressure by Michigan State led to a boatload of turnovers by Minnesota in the first quarter, helping contribute to the Spartans' lead. MSU forced nine turnovers that lead to 10 points in the first frame, giving them a 20-11 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Spartans continued their defensive pressure in the second quarter by forcing an additional six turnovers. Three-pointers also began to fall for MSU as sophomore guard Alyza Winston and junior guard/forward Tory Ozment combined for 6-10 shooting from downtown throughout the game. 

Michigan State grew its lead to 43-23 toward the end of the second quarter but a 15-5 run by the Gophers before the end of the half kept Minnesota in the game. 

Clouden finished the half with 18 points while missing only one shot. 

In the third quarter, the Gophers started to take care of the ball and kept themselves competitive. Both teams had their fair share of runs but neither could pull away. 

Minnesota looked like they had a tough blow when starting forward Kadiatou Sissoko went down with an injury that sent her to the locker room, but she was able to return to the game. 

Foul trouble by the Gophers’ leading scorer Jasmine Powell hindered Minnesota’s chance at a comeback. Early in the fourth quarter, Michigan State forward Mardrekia Cook drew a charge on Powell which resulted in her fifth foul of the game. The All-Big Ten Honorable Mention checked out of the game with 16 points and six assists. 

To make matters worse, Powell’s replacement, freshman guard Alexia Smith, went down with an injury with 4:40 remaining in the game - an injury that looked very similar to Sissoko’s. However, she too returned to the game two minutes later after going to the locker room.

Michigan State consistently knocked down shots and got stops on the defensive end, making it too difficult for the Gophers to make a comeback from their initial deficit. 

Through the first quarter it looked like Clouden was going to easily pass her career high of 28 points; however, she finished with 25 points, two assists and five steals. 

“Obviously Clouden is one of the best players in this conference," Minnesota Head Coach Lindsay Whalen said postgame. "She’s just a tremendous player. Everyone knows she likes to go left, but she has a nice little hesitation comeback right that is just hard to guard.”

As Minnesota limited Clouden in the second half, other Spartans stepped up to score such as sophomore guard Alyza Winston who scored a career high 20 points coming off the bench. 

“She hit some open shots and she got her confidence going," Whalen said. "She is somebody who obviously comes in off their bench and wants to have an impact. If she plays well she is going to play more and tonight she got her confidence going." 

Ohio State transfer Janai Crooms made her MSU debut Wednesday night off the bench. The 5-foot-10 guard was a problem for Minnesota offensively as she recorded a block and two steals to go along with three points in her 13 minutes on the court. 

Ozment and sophomore Julia Ayrault were the two other Spartans to finish with double-digit points, scoring 10 each. Ayrault also turned it up defensively recording a shared team high five steals in just 19 minutes of play. 

Michigan State will travel home to take on Iowa on Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center.

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