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Clouden, Ekh and Winston set the tone for season in exhibition game against Northwood

November 1, 2021
<p>Alyza Winston (3) shoots a 3-point shot in the Spartans&#x27; victory over Purdue on Feb. 21, 2021.</p>

Alyza Winston (3) shoots a 3-point shot in the Spartans' victory over Purdue on Feb. 21, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball was dominant against Northwood in their first exhibition game of the season. The Spartans bested the Timberwolves 95-49 at the Breslin on Sunday led by stellar performances from junior guard Alyza Winston, senior guard Nia Clouden and freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh.

Winston led with 20 points and put up two rebounds and four assists.

“I thought she did a good job just not settling in for just shooting the three; she’s capable of other things," Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant said. "20 points in 22 minutes is pretty good. She’s evolving. This year, now it’s fun to watch her even if she isn’t running the true point. She finds ways to play similarly by attacking the rim versus just spotting up all the time."

Winston has made clear strides from a season ago, using her performance against Iowa State where she felt responsible for the loss as fuel over the course of the offseason.

With today's win, Winston feels there is more to build from.

“I think that it was good. It was really good for us. I think we played really well as a team. We established what everybody can do," Winston said, "I think we can definitely learn from it and build on it.”

Clouden's day was limited as other guards got more playing time. However, the Preseason All-Big Ten First Team member still finished with 10 points, four rebounds and five assists. 

“Nia is just such a calming presence and she’s been that way for four years here," Merchant said. "She’s capable of getting to the rim, setting people up, she can hit a three and she’s got a really solid pull-up jumper."

Merchant joked that Sunday’s game was probably the least amount of time she’s ever played during her time at MSU in order to get other players some time on the court and build their confidence. Last year she had a lot of weight on her shoulders when it came to scoring, but now with players like Winston and Ekh to help out, Merchant is feeling better.

Ekh helped Merchant out tonight especially, by finishing her first game at the Breslin with 15 points, two rebounds and two assists.

“She can shoot it. She’s got a hop hot," Merchant said. "Matilda can square her hips and get that ball up quickly and at different angles and flares."

Ekh showed that the recruiting effort Merchant made to get the wing from Sweden was well worth it. While the nerves were high, Ekh settled in quickly.

“I was kind of nervous at the beginning but I think me and the whole team got going after five minutes, so it was nice to get to score some,” Ekh said. She was also happy with her three three-pointers in the third quarter after missing shots in the first half. 

After Sunday’s exhibition game, Merchant wants her team to focus on their defense going into practice this week. They will take on Morehead State next on Nov. 9, 6 p.m. at home to open the regular season.

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