Monday, September 27, 2021

FINAL: MSU 76, Purdue 73, Tory Ozment's late-game heroics give MSU the win

February 21, 2021
The Spartans rush to the court to celebrate their victory against Purdue on Feb. 21, 2021.
The Spartans rush to the court to celebrate their victory against Purdue on Feb. 21, 2021. —
Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

With your backs on the wall, you need your best players to rise up is the cliche.

What about your role players?

With the Spartans down nine as Nia Clouden struggled on the night, it was Alisia Smith, Alyza Winston and Tory Ozment who carried their team to victory as Ozment drilled a three as time expired to boost her team to victory over Purdue, 76-73, off a kick out from Clouden.

"It felt really good coming off,” Ozment said about the shot. “I can just hear Suzy in the background, ‘Tory, pop, pop, pop!.’ I saw the defender going to go towards Nia, who wouldn’t, I saw them creep towards Nia and I got enough space and it felt great coming off.”

It was Winston in the first half carrying the load as Winston made her way back into the starting lineup after being replaced by Janai Crooms earlier this year. After scoring double-digit points in back-to-back outings, including 18 points off the bench against Michigan, Merchant elected to place her back in the starting lineup.

That investment paid off early as Winston led her offense to a fast start and MSU led up to 11-3 early against a Purdue team that had lost six in a row coming in to the game.

Winston played all 10 minutes of the first quarter and racked up five points and four assists to have her team with an eleven-point lead at the half.

The Boilermakers with Winston on the bench to begin the second quarter began to catch up with a 6-0 run, but Winston checked back in and on three consecutive possessions scored including two threes in the transition to combat the Boilermakers run in the second quarter.

“It was nice to see Alyza get us off to a really good start, that was a positive,” Merchant said. “On the other side of that, I would challenge our entire team to do a better job of being able to defend in the quarter-court.”

Clouden was 0-of-6 from the field and scoreless in the first half, but MSU was buoyed by Winston's place as Clouden struggled.

“I don’t know what Nia’s deal was, she seemed off from the beginning just kind of going through the motions,” Merchant said. “I spent a lot of time telling her, ‘you gotta stop trying to get a foul and just go focus and finish.'"

Purdue’s Kayana Traylor smelled blood in the water as she exploded for 16 second-quarter points, drilling three shots from beyond the arc, including one to give them the lead going to halftime as they led 37-35.

The third quarter became a battle as both teams traded baskets. Early on, it was Crooms who was leading the offense this time as she dished out three assists to MSU’s interior to regain the lead on multiple occasions.

Clouden broke her scoring drought with a drive to the basket for the and-one and after failing to convert the and-one, Alisia Smith gathered the offensive rebound as Clouden laid it in once again.

Despite that, Purdue refused to go away as Traylor continued her dominance on the offense end of the floor, scoring nine in the third quarter, including a layup as time expired to push the lead to three heading into the fourth.

The Spartans began the fourth getting it down low to Smith as she corralled multiple offensive rebounds as Crooms regained possession and exclaimed, ‘Boo-yah!’ as Smith laid it in for two.

The Boilermakers continued to cause problems for the Spartans though as they continuously made it to the free throw line to snatch free points at the line to hold on to their lead into the fourth.

With 4:09 left to go, the Spartans needed a basket down six, but Brooke Moore off of a missed three from Julia Ayrault went coast to coast, pushing the lead to nine as Moore completed the and-one.

After Winston took over in the first half, it was Smith’s time to shine. Smith's 14 second-half points were a major reason MSU was able to get away with a win.

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Her two steals and 10 points through the fourth tied the game up after trailing by as much as nine, including her offensive rebound to keep a possession alive to an eventual bucket to tie things up with just under a minute left to go.

On the next possession, Smith swatted away a transition opportunity for the Boilermakers to give her team the ball with 44 seconds remaining. 

“I think defensively as a mobile, length post that can kind of trap ball screens and get in passing lanes, she was certainly able to do that,” Merchant said. “As they went zone and really extended, we were able to get the ball to the high post, their center steps up, and we did a really nice job of finding her in the high-low and her finishing down there. Those two things offensively, she did a good job finishing and certainly created some offense from our defense and we definitely needed it when we're down nine with three plus to go.”

Winston would go on to finish with 16 points and five assists on 6-of-10 shooting. Smith and Moira Joiner combined for 29 points on the day alongside Winston to uplift the offense without their star Clouden playing her best game.

Michigan State will look to build off of this performance as they take on a pesky Rutgers squad on Wednesday at home. Purdue has now lost seven games in a row.

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