Tuesday, July 27, 2021

FINAL: MSU 69, Indiana 61, Nia Clouden's monster 2nd half pushes Spartans to semifinals

March 11, 2021
<p>Clouden fights off Indiana defenders to score during the second quarter. The Spartans will advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament after defeating the Hoosiers 69-61 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Shot on March 11, 2021.</p>

Clouden fights off Indiana defenders to score during the second quarter. The Spartans will advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament after defeating the Hoosiers 69-61 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Shot on March 11, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

MSU came into the second day of the Big Ten tournament with all the cards stacked against them.

Not only were they the lower seed and the underdogs, but for the first time in over a year they played with a crowd, and they weren’t wearing green and white. The stands were full of Hoosier fans sporting red and white, giving MSU a new challenge to face, and the obstacle of practically playing an away game, while technically at a neutral site.

But it wouldn’t matter as the Spartans fought back from an ugly start to the game once again to beat Indiana 69-61 in a big upset, this time on the back of star guard Nia Clouden as she exploded for 27 of her 30 points in the second half.

"My mentality was to just help my team and my team looks for me to score and looks for me to make plays so that's what I came out trying to do," Clouden said postgame. "Just fired up to win, not ready to quit."

MSU started out the game slow and out of control on offense. IU came out and set the pace of the game, forcing MSU into bad passes resulting in seven MSU turnovers in the first quarter. Despite the Spartans not having a scorer over four points to start the game, they only trailed Indiana 16-11 after the first quarter. 

More of the same continued in the second quarter as Indiana’s defensive pressure seemed to frustrate MSU. Indiana picked up whoever brought the ball up for MSU, usually Janai Crooms, Winston or Clouden, full court. 

With 2:37 left in the first half, Alisia Smith was stuffed at the rim and MSU was called for a shot-clock violation, embodying the frustrating play of MSU’s offense. 

Cook hit a much-needed three-pointer at the end of the half to stop the bleeding for MSU, but they still found themselves down 34-26 at halftime. It seemed like the atmosphere and fans rooting against MSU stopped them from getting momentum in the first half. 

Despite the away game atmosphere, Nia Clouden would come out of the half and single-handedly bring the Spartans back from the grave. She willed in an and-1 on the very first play of the half. This would begin a 27-point half for Clouden as she shrugged off the Indiana defense, seemingly hitting every shot she threw up.

Her strong quarter would give MSU a 47-45 lead going into the final quarter of play.

She came out in the fourth quarter and continued her red-hot shooting, hitting shot after shot to open up the MSU lead. 

Clouden drained a midrange jumper, scoring her 25th point of the game, to give the Spartans a 57-50 lead with six minutes left in the game and Indiana called timeout.

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The crowd of Indiana fans roared coming out of the timeout, hoping their team could stop the streaking Clouden and go on a game-saving run. 

As the crowd got the loudest it was all night, Tory Ozment hit a huge three-pointer to put the Spartans up 63-56 with 1:55 left. 

With 1:43 left, MSU would have to overcome two more obstacles, as Ozment left the game with a left leg injury and Alyza Winston fouled out.

Then the Hoosiers intentionally fouled to keep their hopes alive, it was to no avail however as Nia Clouden’s 30 point night willed the Spartans to victory, advancing them further in the tournament. Clouden’s backcourt partner-in-crime Winston pitched in a solid 13 points to support Clouden, as a big run at the right time shows how dangerous MSU’s team can be. 

MSU survives to play the winner of Rutgers vs. Iowa game in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. 

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