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3 takeaways as MSU women's hoops beats Central Michigan

December 19, 2020
<p>Nia Clouden drives and passes the ball against Central Michigan in the Spartans&#x27; 79-70 win on Dec. 18, 2020, at the Breslin Center.</p>

Nia Clouden drives and passes the ball against Central Michigan in the Spartans' 79-70 win on Dec. 18, 2020, at the Breslin Center.

Michigan State women's basketball defeated Central Michigan (3-2), 79-70 on Friday afternoon.

Led by guards Nia Clouden and Alyza Winston, who scored a combined 40 points to lead the Spartans, MSU improved to 5-0 with the win.

Here are three takeaways from State News sportswriter Joe Dandron on the Spartans' victory that maintained their unblemished record heading into a matchup Sunday against Northern Illinois.

Michigan State's passing and timely defense will carry them this season

The last time I covered Michigan State women's basketball was, ironically, two seasons ago when the Spartans beat No. 9 seed CMU, 88-87 in South Bend, Indiana, during the opening round of the 2019 NCAAW Tournament.

That Chippewa team was maybe the best its had in recent memory. Both Reyna Frost and Presley Hudson, who led the team in nearly every major statistical category, were a nearly unstoppable guard-forward combination that won 25 games and the regular season of the Mid-American Conference.

This CMU team might not make the NCAAs, but it will surely make noise in the MAC all season behind Micaela Kelly, who is one of the best scorers in women's college hoops.

Michigan State won on the coattails of a big second half and maybe one of the best fourth quarters the Spartans have played all season.

It's obvious this MSU team does two things: plays together and scores.

That'll carry this team all season. When you have 24 assists on 27 made shots, you win games if you can get enough stops. Which MSU did, timely ones at that. Julia Ayrault bothered a shot late that would've expanded CMU's lead in the fourth to four, but instead, it turned into Nia Clouden's And-1 that sparked a 10-0 run to ice the game.

MSU will play two more games between Dec. 19 and Dec. 22, so they will have a chance to keep building on a strong start to their season.

Settling for jump shots won't help

Head Coach Suzy Merchant referenced MSU's last game, a win over Iowa, in which the Spartans attempted 30 three-pointers and only knocked in eight.

That isn't winning basketball. It was evident on Friday night that MSU was going to both attack the rim and not settle for jump shots.

Shooting 4-of-12 from behind the arc, that's what the Spartans shot only six days after attempting 30 in their fourth game of the season. The interior passing, drive and dish game and pick and roll was working for much of the second half.

The fast break is also where this team lives, scoring 29 points on the break during the game. Clouden's ability to attack the rim is a major factor in this. She averages five free throw attempts a game and has made 23-of-25 on the season. She has always attacked the basket with reckless abandon, but as she's grown in Merchant's system and as a player, she's mastered the art of drawing fouls and putting pressure on the frontcourt of the opposing team's defense.

Central Michigan will be a team to watch in the MAC

I referenced this above, but CMU made 15 three-pointers on 38 attempts, which was the most jumpers the Chippewas have attempted from behind the arc all season.

Despite this, CMU only lost to their second Big Ten opponent to fall to 3-2 on the year. Coach Heather Oesterle has a competitive squad, one that has both losses coming on the road against ranked Michigan and undefeated MSU.

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It's obvious that Oesterle has two things: good guards and a forward. Kyra Bussell is averaging nearly 13 points a game has five total blocks and 37 total rebounds to form a tandem with senior guard Micaela Kelly, who scores 23 points a game.

The pair will be what drives this CMU team, but defensively the Chippewas leave much to be desired. MSU shot 53.8% in the second half of Friday's game.

The Chippewas' three wins were all in Mt. Pleasant, and two came by double digits. The MAC is always a competitive conference in women's hoops. This year will be no different.


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