Thursday, December 2, 2021

4 takeaways from Michigan State women's basketball's open practice

October 4, 2021
<p>Then-junior guard Nia Clouden (24) jumps up to shoot in the second quarter and is surrounded by Iowa defenders. The Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes, 87-72, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Mar. 12, 2021. </p>

Then-junior guard Nia Clouden (24) jumps up to shoot in the second quarter and is surrounded by Iowa defenders. The Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes, 87-72, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Mar. 12, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

The public got its first look at the MSU women’s basketball team Saturday afternoon in an open practice at the Breslin Center. Today was the public’s first chance to see the team in a year and a half after playing in empty arenas all of 2020.

The practice consisted of a full-length game with four quarters, playing intrasquad scrimmages for two of the quarters and playing the men’s basketball managers for the other two.

It was an early look at the Spartans as they enter the final preparation of the preseason. MSU will not play again in front of fans until their first exhibition game on Oct. 31 against Northwood. The regular season begins on Nov. 9 against Morehead State.

Here are some takeaways from the Spartans’ open practice today:

Alyza Winston and Nia Clouden are primed for a great year

The returning backcourt duo of Winston and Clouden spearheaded the Spartan offense last season on their way to the NCAA tournament. After a heartbreaking loss to Iowa State in the tournament to end the season, Clouden and Winston are back with a year of experience and improvement under their belt.

Clouden looked a lot like she did last season during her first-team All-Big Ten campaign today. She played off of Winston as the two guard and made play after play off the dribble. She got into the lane with her explosive first step and finished with both hands at the rim or in the paint on a floater. After leading the Spartans in scoring as a junior, Clouden is set to do it once again.

Winston matched Clouden’s offensive aggressiveness with taking and making shots at a frequent rate. On the other end of the floor, Winston was a menace for whoever was running the offense against her. She was inside the jersey of whoever she was guarding and disrupting them from start to finish.

Matilda Ekh will contribute day one

Ekh, a sophomore, looked ready to be an immediate contributor to the Spartans after missing all of last year due to not being able to secure a travel visa to come to the US from Sweden. She arrived in East Lansing and joined the team at the end of August.

On the court, it looks like Ekh is one of the veterans of the team. She ran the offense seamlessly and shot a high clip from three from one of the wing positions. She has a quick release and the length necessary to get her shot up over anybody.

Ekh ran with the starting lineup most of the time during the practice, signaling that she is in line for a big role this year. Standing at 6’0, she has the size to guard multiple positions and looked like a capable on-ball defender on the outside.

The interior defense looks sound

The biggest thing that stood out today was the defense. The team came out with a lot of intensity and made baskets hard to come by for each other. The biggest standouts were the bigs like Julia Ayrault, Purdue transfer Tamara Farquhar and Tory Ozment were swatting or altering shots inside all afternoon.

The strong interior defense that was on display today, coupled with the hounding defense from Clouden and Winston, could set Michigan State up to have a formidable team defensively.

DeeDee Hagemann could be on the Big Ten All-Freshman team

Hagemann is a true freshman from Detroit, but you could not tell how young she was on the court Saturday. She played at a blazing speed on both ends of the court and was not afraid to attack the heart of the defense despite only being 5’7.

She displayed that she can finish no matter the defender or angle when she gets moving towards the rim. Hagemann made a number of difficult layups over Ayrault and others inside. She is currently behind Winston and Clouden on the depth chart but played on their level today. If she can continue that all season, she can have a breakout year and help the Spartans immensely.

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