With Michigan State and Purdue each going well over a week without playing competitive basketball, the Spartans knocked off the rust on the road against Purdue, winning 71-64.
The rust was evident in this game as Michigan State and Purdue combined for 28 total turnovers and with Michigan State and Purdue each shooting poorly on the day.
The one thing that did show up was defense for both squads as coming out the gates in a 2-3 zone on defense, Purdue started off the game in control after going 4-for-4 from the field and jumping out to a 9-5 lead.
Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant appeared frustrated on the sideline by their performance at the beginning of the game and immediately looked down her bench and made a few changes to get some energy on defense. At center, she switched to Alisia Smith who made an impact by helping force a Nia Clouden steal and turning that into an easy midrange jumper to tie the game.
Michigan State wouldn’t look back in the first half after that as they tightened up on defense, finishing the first quarter on a 8-3 run by holding the Boilermakers scoreless for over three consecutive minutes. The Boilermakers only scored 12 points in the first quarter.
The Spartans would never relinquish their lead from this point on. Michigan State continued their strong defensive effort in the second quarter as over half of Purdue’s 13 points were only able to come from the free throw line and were only able to muster nine field goal attempts due to seven turnovers. The Spartans would capitalize in the first half on Purdue’s turnovers, scoring 14 points off of their 10 turnovers.
The Spartans couldn’t fully separate, but a 7-0 run to finish the half put Michigan State in control, leading 37-25.
Merchant continued to use her depth to her advantage, deploying 10 players in the first half and having nine score to create 16 points off the bench.
Purdue would not go away as they turned up their defensive effort, holding the Spartans to 4-17 shooting and eight total points in the third. After MSU lead by 12 at the half, the Boilermakers cut the lead down to one after a 15-2 run.
However, the Boilermakers couldn’t capitalize on their strong defensive effort, only shooting 25% from the field themselves in the third quarter.
It was the pair of Clouden and Julia Ayrault who got the Spartans their momentum back with a floater from Ayrault to break a long scoreless streak for her squad and then Clouden, who finished the half with an easy steal and layup, to end the third to keep the Spartans up five heading into the fourth.
That momentum carried into the fourth quarter to begin as Clouden drilled a three and a Boilermaker turnover helped MSU extend the lead back up to 10.
The two woman game between Smith and Clouden propelled the Spartans to victory. Clouden scored nine in the fourth, and Smith got eight points herself despite the Boilermakers best effort to close the lead at the end of the game.
The Spartans would hold the Boilermakers to 34.5% from the field in their win as well as forcing 16 turnovers on the day and capitalizing by scoring 18 points off turnovers.
Clouden took over in West Lafayette, Indiana, when her team needed her most, scoring 23 points, including 12 in the second half. Smith and Ayrault rounded out their top scorers, with Smith scoring 15 and Ayrault getting 10. Smith played a big role off the bench with Taiyier Parks struggling on the day with only six points, five rebounds and two turnovers.
Alyza Winston, who was the Spartans' second leading scorer, struggled mightily on the day going 1-9 from the field for five points and four fouls in 26 minutes.
Kayana Traylor led Purdue in scoring, scoring 16 including 10 from the free-throw line.
Michigan State, now 8-0, will face their biggest test yet this Thursday against No. 14 Maryland at home, looking to match their best start since 2012-2013 when Merchant’s Spartans started the season 10-0.
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