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Preview: Michigan State women's basketball hosts Illinois for Big Ten home opener

December 9, 2021
<p>Janai Crooms (23) scores in the Spartans&#x27; victory over University of Illinois on Feb. 4.</p>

Janai Crooms (23) scores in the Spartans' victory over University of Illinois on Feb. 4.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball will take on Illinois tonight at the Breslin Center for their Big Ten home opener. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on BTN+.

The Spartans are looking to bounce back from tough back-to-back losses against Iowa and Notre Dame and are searching for their first Big Ten win of the season. They are 6-4 on the season but have struggled to consistently perform up to their full potential as a team. 

Consistency has come from senior guard Nia Clouden who is averaging 19.4 points per game. She’s been able to find creative new ways to score and put her team in a position to win this season, but it’s a job that can’t be done alone. MSU has some very talented players that have had outstanding game appearances, but the problem thus far is their performances have not been consistent.

Helping Clouden has been freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann who has a similar ability to create scoring opportunities. She’s become the “sixth woman” off the bench, providing stability and energy when the team needs it most. Clouden and Hagemann have provided them with consistent play. When they step out on the court, they run it with ease. 

As for the rest of the team, they can be compared to a puzzle. When all the members of the team come together and perform at their full potential, all the pieces fall into place and you can see the full picture as a strong, competitive team. However, when only one or two players step up per game, the pieces don't come together and it’s hard to see the full picture of a strong team.

Going into Big Ten play MSU will need their players to do what they do best. Freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh will need to keep up her hot shot from behind the arc and knock down three-pointers. Graduate student forward Tamara Farquhar has to stay strong under the basket and rebound. Junior guard Alyza Winston also has to step up and continue her work from the beginning of the season when she was consistently one of the top scorers on the team.

If the Spartans want to be competitive in the Big Ten this season, every player will have to realize their role on the team and play up to their full potential. This will have to start tonight when they take on Illinois. 

Illinois is 4-4 on the season and has yet to play a Big Ten game. The team snapped their three-game losing streak Sunday against Eastern Kentucky in a 71-57 victory over the Colonels. Having only played games on their home court or neutral locations, the Illini will have to adjust to playing on the road with fans again after playing in empty arenas during the COVID season.

The Illini also have some familiar faces on their roster with former MSU forward Kendall Bostic and East Lansing Native Aaliyah Nye. Bostic transferred from MSU a year ago after having spotty playing time as a freshman and is currently averaging seven points and 11.5 rebounds per game for Illinois. Nye is the leading scorer for the Illini at 13.3 points per game.

After this game, the Spartans will head down south to Florida on Dec. 20. for the West Palm Invitational to take on Florida Gulf Coast and West Virginia before returning home for more Big Ten action against Nebraska.

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