Michigan State women's basketball (5-3) got knocked out cold 76-71 by the No. 24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-1) tonight, collecting their first home loss of the season.
Head Coach Suzy Merchant could be heard yelling from the sidelines, "Rebound, rebound, rebound!" The gears were turning for the team... in opposite directions. It was that same old "me, my turn please" mentality that seemed to stump the Spartans from their lead late into the first half.
Well, that and the shots. 33% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc aren't exactly prime numbers when you're up against a team like Notre Dame whose median height alone is above five-foot-10 – that was just at the half.
Players like graduate forward Maya Dodson, sophomore forward Maddy Westbeld and sophomore forward Natalija Marshall, who stand at a collective six-foot-three to six-foot-five, are hard to block when you're senior guard Nia Clouden, junior guard Alyza Winston and freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann, who are no taller than five-foot-eight.
It was expected on all ends, for this to be a challenging night, for there to be disadvantages and adversities they would have to overcome, and the Spartans did what they could. The game was both mentally and physically challenging from the start and once that lead was lost to the Irish, the Spartans had a tough time getting it back.
With under five left in the third quarter, freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh and freshman guard Sonia Citron – coincidentally both No. 11 – were the only two players from either side to reach double digits: Ekh with 11 and Citron with 10 points.
Four personal fouls couldn't stop Ekh from dominating the court. She went on to tie her career-high 17 points in the final two minutes of play.
Clouden joined the duo after going 11-for-12 at the stripe and finished the night with 20 points, six rebounds and five assists. She also had three steals. This is yet another 20-point game in the books for her.
Junior guard Moira Joiner was not far behind, tipping in a layup in the final three minutes of the third quarter to bring the game within two. The bench was loud for her: "Keep working, Mo!" chants of pride echoed. She finished the night with 14 points, setting a season-high.
Junior forward Taiyier Parks added in a killer from rebound here to there, pulling her weight to get her teammates to the board as much as possible. The Spartans were able to capitalize 10 points off 15 opponent turnovers. Parks had eight of MSU's total 34 rebounds.
Citron led the Irish to their victory with 29 points off the bench, five rebounds and three assists. Dodson fouled out in the final two seconds.
The Spartans (5-3) will travel to No. 9 Iowa's nest next Sunday to begin the Big Ten campaign for the 2021-22 season. Tip-off against the Hawkeyes (4-0) is set for 4 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
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