Michigan State is starting the season 2-0 after a win against Niagara. The 89-65 victory was a hard-fought battle against an aggressive Purple Eagle defense that forced the Spartans to find new ways to score.
After breaking the school record for most three-pointers in a game (17), the Spartans struggled from behind the three-point line, only shooting 5-19 on the night. After relying heavily on their three-point shooting, they focused more on fast breaks, driving into the paint and passing down the court to break their press.
Leading the way down the court for many of these plays was junior guard Alyza Winston. She finished with 17 points and four assists, many stemming from her quick reflexes on those fast-paced plays.
Offensively, Winston and senior guard Nia Clouden continued to shine this season, with Clouden finishing with 12 points and four assists. Aiding the cause was freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann who had some impressive no-look passes and ended the night with 11 points and seven assists.
Defensively, the Spartans also had some early rebounding struggles, which they were able to recover from, but their inability to box out and get offensive rebounds hurt them during slumps in the second and third quarters.
The Spartans continued their defensive improvements from their previous game against Morehead State, forcing 22 turnovers against the Purple Eagles throughout the game. However, they also struggled, with 19 of their own turnovers.
“I was disappointed in the basic things, like at this level you shouldn’t have to say step to meet your pass,” Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant said.
Niagara presented a more aggressive defense than the teams Michigan State has previously played this season, introducing a strong full-court press that the Spartans were able to break with ease, but it made the game more physical. Both teams were in bonus for the entire first half of the game, leaving players from both sides in recurring foul trouble.
“There’s definitely some open areas I think we can improve on and that’s what these early games are for,” Merchant said.
Michigan State looks to continue its success and build off the lessons from this victory when they play Valparaiso on Tuesday at the Breslin Center.
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