MSU showed a lot of promise in their convincing victory against Illinois on Feb. 4 in the 81-60 win.
There were many takeaways from the game, but three things specifically occurred in this game that foreshadow a bright season for the Spartans as the win got MSU to 10-4 on the season.
Next, MSU will take on No. 22 Northwestern at 3 p.m. at the Breslin Center on Sunday. Here are three observations from MSU's win from State News sports reporter Jordan Nelson.
Nia Clouden again proves to be one of the best in the nation
Junior Nia Clouden has been proving herself not only as the leader of this team, but as a top point guard in the conference and even the country.
Clouden, who averages nearly 20 points and four assists, surpassed both those totals against Illinois with a showing of 28 points and five assists.
Clouden made this performance look easy, and just when the defense of Illinois collapsed on her in the midst of a hot shooting streak, she knew exactly when and who to dish the ball out to for an easy bucket.
“We always know Nia is going get us something,” Head Coach Suzy Merchant said. “... and her vision has really improved as a guard.”
Clouden sits in the top five in the Big Ten in scoring and is looking to be one of the top point guards in the nation this year.
"She’s an all-conference player," Merchant said. "I know she’s not on that Lieberman watch list as one of the best point guards in the country, and I don't know why because I feel like her numbers are unbelievable."
MSU can thrive off the fast break and turnovers
MSU’s ability to create a fast-paced game will really help them as the season goes on.
MSU forced 23 turnovers on Illinois, but the most impressive part about that is the 27 points they scored off these turnovers.
They seemed to be in every passing lane at the perfect time, and when the ball was deflected all five Spartans were off to the races creating one-on-two or two-on-three fast break opportunities.
“I thought we did a really good job of getting stops and getting our transition game going,” Merchant said.
Now at 5-4 in Big Ten play, MSU's tournament hopes to reignite
This win put the Spartans at a 5-4 record in Big Ten play. This statement win to go over .500 in conference play could easily be the start of a momentum that leads them into the Big Ten tournament.
With beatable teams like Northwestern, Penn State, Purdue and Rutgers coming up on the schedule, the Spartans could go on a long streak of wins in the coming weeks of conference play.
MSU looks to build on a very strong performance on Feb. 7 as the Northwestern Wildcats come to the Breslin.
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