After an exhilarating win for Iowa women's basketball against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes fell short to the Spartans 86-82 Saturday at the Breslin. The Spartan win marks their second consecutive in Big Ten play and has extended their undefeated record on the season.
The Spartans started off strong as sophomore guard Alyza Winston put up two three-pointers, followed by another pair of three-pointers by sophomore guard Julia Ayrault in the first minute. The momentum was high as the Hawkeyes called their first timeout.
Ayrault continued to build off her hot start throughout the game. She ended the night with 19 points and nine rebounds, prompting Head Coach Suzy Merchant to recognize her athleticism.
“Julia has been playing really well," Merchant said. "… I thought she was super ultra-competitive. She’s a touch matchup. She’s very athletic too. ... She had a presence about her.”
The game was Ayrault's first career start in the green and white. She found out she would appear in the starting five during warmups, but regardless, she felt ready.
“This is a good opportunity to do what I can," Ayrault said. "… You have to just be ready for whenever they need you. ... Knowing what you’re good at, knowing your role … it definitely helps your confidence just to have a decent game, and now it’s onto the next one.”
Aryault went through a dry spell in the Spartans' last two games, missing all of her shots from behind the arc. However, against Iowa, the two three's she hit in the first minute were what she needed to get the momentum going.
Winston also thrived on her early momentum as she scored her career high 25 points on the night.
“I think my biggest problem in the past was just not looking to score and not really having the same confidence that I had in high school,” Winston said. “I think that’s the biggest difference for me is just having that confidence that I am going to make the shot, and I can take the shot, and I can make it.”
The team’s confidence was notable.
“I think what kept our momentum was having the lead,” Winston said.
The Spartans thrived off of the energy, which became even more apparent in the fourth quarter as the point margin shrank. Ultimately, the Spartans kept their lead and showed out in their second Big Ten win of the season.
The Spartans have not been 2-0 in their Big Ten opener since the 2013-14 season. Defeating Iowa was the energy they needed. Now it’s time to keep the momentum going in their next game against Central Michigan at 5 p.m. on Dec. 18.
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