Friday, January 28, 2022

FINAL: MSU 72 Nebraska 69: Michigan State women's hoops hands Cornhuskers first loss of season

December 30, 2021
<p>Then-junior guard Nia Clouden lays the ball in during the Spartans&#x27; 68-64 loss to Nebraska on Jan. 10, 2021.</p>

Then-junior guard Nia Clouden lays the ball in during the Spartans' 68-64 loss to Nebraska on Jan. 10, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Michigan State handed the Nebraska Cornhuskers their first loss of the season in a thrilling battle that lasted all four quarters. The Spartans came in looking to bounce back from their two losses in the West Palm Beach Invitational despite playing with fewer players than usual.

The team is used to playing with a depleted roster due to pre-season injuries, but this game was their biggest test yet. With freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann and graduate student guard Laurel Jacqmain out with COVID-19 and junior guard Moira Joiner out due to concussion protocol, MSU had a total of nine players available against the Cornhuskers. 

Senior guard Nia Clouden and graduate student forward Alisia Smith stepped up early, scoring all but two of the points in the first quarter. Clouden continued to show off her versatility, scoring from anywhere on the court while Smith relied on her jumpshot that’s been solid all season. 

Despite being a smaller-sized team, the Spartans were able to get excellent position under the basket early on and outrebound the Cornhuskers. Junior center Taiyier Parks was able to command the paint with some timely defensive stops under the basket paired with strong putbacks and steals by denying her opponents in the post.

The team as a whole struggled to box out Nebraska towards the end of the first half, giving up some easy points. However, they were able to recover quickly and went into the locker room at halftime with an 11 point lead. 

The Spartans were able to strike first in the second half with a nice basket by freshman forward Matilda Ekh, but the momentum quickly shifted to the Cornhuskers. Nebraska was able to create some back-to-back scoring plays on fast breaks and textbook cuts to the basket, cutting MSU’s lead to as little as four. 

Not wanting to let their lead dwindle any longer, MSU fought to get the momentum back on their side by sharing the points amongst the team. Clouden and Smith continued their scoring runs with their excellent shot selection while Ekh had some strong scoring drives to the basket and Parks continued flexing her strength under the basket. 

The already shorthanded team had to learn how to play without their leader for parts of the second half as Clouden had to sit with four fouls. The Spartans also opened the fourth quarter with some sloppy basketball, allowing Nebraska second-chance points and fast breaks off turnovers.

Both teams gave it everything they had in the final quarter, making it the biggest battle of the game. Graduate student forward Tamara Farquhar played her heart out by leaping for every loose ball and even provided the team with a timely steal and fastbreak layup to add to MSU's lead.

However, Nebraska stepped up to the occasion as well, making it a two-point game with under two minutes to play, but the Cornhuskers were no match for Clouden. She stepped up big time, drawing two fouls and then going three for four at the free-throw line before hitting a perfectly timed jumper with 24.4 seconds left in the game.

The Cornhuskers gave a last-ditch effort to salvage a victory but were unsuccessful. Clouden leaped for the final rebound of the game and dribbled it out as time ran out, giving the Spartans a much-needed win and putting the Spartans at 8-6 on the season.

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