The Michigan State women's basketball team (1-0) opened their season at home this evening against the Morehead State Eagles (0-1) in a vicious 93-31 victory.
Despite missing senior guard/forward Tory Ozment and junior guard Julia Ayrault at the four to season-ending injuries, the Spartans were able to capitalize on a solid lead early in the first quarter, collecting 21 of their 41 points at the half, off 14 opponent turnovers while only having three turnovers themselves.
By the end of the night, they had more than tripled the Eagles score. 45 of their 93 points came from 29 opponent turnovers, while they never broke double digits for turnovers themselves. They went 35-for-62 from the field and 17-for-28 from beyond the arc.
MSU's 17 three-pointers made has set a new record for the program.
"That's a good starting point, that's for sure, and we'll take it," Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant said postgame. "(I knew coming in that it would be a very high three-point shooting team) because of Mathilda, DeeDee, Alyza, Clouden, I mean, Mo, we have the ability to stretch (the defense), even (though) Tory and Julia who are hurt. They worked hard this off-season."
Junior guard Alyza Winston and senior guard senior guard Nia Clouden are a force to be reckoned with. While the upperclassmen only stand at a mere 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-8, their play stands much taller.
Together, the pair went 13-for-20 on field shots for 35 points with two rebounds, nine assists and seven steals.
Clouden has racked up several preseason honors, getting named to the John R. Wooden Award Top 50, the Wade Trophy and the Citizen Naismith Women's Player of the Year preseason watch lists, as well as the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and WBCA preseason watch list for the Nancy Lieberman Award, which recognizes the nation's top point guard. She was also named to the preseason All-Big Ten team.
Last season, Clouden was fifth in the Big Ten conference in scoring after averaging 18.7 points and 3.9 assists per game with a career-best 46.4% from the field, 32.4% from beyond the arc and 78% from the line.
Junior guard Moira Joiner and graduate forward Tamara Farquhar rotated at the power forward position for a combined 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists – this is Farquhar's natural position and it shows. Merchant said yesterday that these two were prime candidates to fill in for the mending Ozment and Ayrault.
"I think we can become a different team (with this plan) and that's the one thing I like about them: their versatility of it all," Merchant said. "When Tamara came in, we attacked more inside, with a high-low look against the zone and she can stretch, she's got a nice 15 to 18-foot jumper and she's been working on her extension. But, that's her first gift to this. She's a great defender, great rebounder, great cutter, high IQ for the game and plays extremely hard, so when we sub her in, we become a different team. We morph."
Freshman guards Matilda Ekh and DeeDee Hagemann and graduate guard Laurel Jacqmain racked up an additional 32 points.
"Matilda, if she had too, can run the point," Merchant said. "We ran her a little bit there (tonight). Her versatility has helped us in this rotation because she could be a one, two, three or four for us and she's good at understanding the game from (all) perspectives."
"One thing [Laurel]'s always struggled with is when she gets in the game, she doesn't always feel confident enough with herself. She certainly does at practice, ... and I know she's worked on it a lot," Merchant said. "She can shoot the ball and ... her work ethic is solid. She's in the gym more than anyone and her minutes haven't logged that just yet. ... She's shot more shots this summer than anyone on our team and when you have that, as a coach, it's a special thing and you embrace it."
The Michigan State Spartans (1-0) will host the Niagara Purple Eagles (0-1) next on Sunday, Nov. 14 for Military Appreciation Day. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Big Ten Plus.
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