After a two week absence due to COVID-19, the Spartans looked unfazed in their 94-62 win over the struggling Wisconsin Badgers.
The Spartans were without their all-around junior forward Tory Ozment as she did not travel to Madison for the matchup. Ozment would be replaced by junior guard Janai Crooms in the starting lineup.
In addition to Ozment’s absence in the lineup, Michigan state women’s basketball Head Coach Suzy Merchant opted to place Alisia Smith at the center spot in place of Taiyier Parks after she sustained an ankle injury in the Spartans loss against Nebraska two weeks ago.
Despite the new lineup and missing players, the entire Spartans roster came together to break their two-game losing streak as the two new starters, Crooms and Smith got the offense going early for the Spartans in the first quarter as they jumped out to a 13-6 lead early.
As the Badgers narrowed the lead back down, Nia Clouden regained her swagger after a season-low offensive output against Nebraska, scoring seven to hold a narrow one-point lead at the end of the first.
Both offenses continued their high octane performances in the second half as both teams combined for five three-pointers and 42 total points in the second quarter.
Parks began the half playing inspired basketball off the bench scoring five quick points to start the quarter.
Her fellow sophomore teammate Moira Joiner, who has played a smaller role this season, rose to the occasion by filling Ozment’s role with two big buckets from beyond the arc and hustle plays on the defensive end.
However, the Badgers wouldn't back down on their home court, desperately needing a win after seven straight losses and zero wins in Big Ten play. Each time the Spartans began to gain a sizable lead, the Badgers came up big on the other end to remain within single digits.
With an impressive zero turnovers for Michigan State in the first half, the Spartans entered the second half with a 40-35 lead.
"I really loved how well we played together," Merchant said. "I think our kids whether it was man or zone, I really loved how we attacked and had an attack mentality."
The third quarter would ultimately make the difference between the Badgers and the Spartans as they would go onto score 16 of their 25 points in the paint with Smith and Parks each combining for 11.
Parks continued to play one of her best games of the season as she put together three consecutive impressive plays to get four points and an impressive offensive rebound and assist to give the Spartans an eight-point lead before extending it to 14 at the end of the third quarter.
The team continued to find offense from multiple players in the fourth as Kendall Bostic opened the fourth quarter with back to back baskets to push the lead up to 18 as the Spartans broke their two-game losing streak.
The Spartans would finish the day with four scorers in double digits as Smith, Clouden, Parks and Joiner combined for 59 points on the night. Parks’ and Smith’s performances helped contribute to an impressive performance on offense in the paint as the squad finished with 44 points in the paint.
"I loved our energy, I loved our team basketball tonight, sharing the ball, taking care of the ball, four kids in double figures and we had three with nine as well," Merchant said. "It was a really fun game to coach and to be part of."
Merchant’s squad was incredibly efficient on the day as they only turned the ball over X times on the night, shooting 51.5% from the field and an impressive 86.4% from the free-throw line on 22 attempts.
The Badgers struggled to find offensive production outside of their two stars Sydney Hilliard and Imani Lewis, who combined for 32 points as Lewis reached the 1,000 point threshold in her career at Wisconsin
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The Spartans were scheduled to play Michigan in back to back games this week, but will not after Michigan athletics began a two-week pause after an athlete tested positive for the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus.
The Spartans are currently scheduled to face #16 Indiana next a week from today, who is fresh off of an AP top 25 win on the road over #21 Northwestern.
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