Freshman forward Matilda Ekh has made quite an impact in just her first season in East Lansing. The Västerås, Sweden native has started every game for the Spartans this season and is averaging 12.1 per game.
That's a disservice to the impact she brings to the floor. She also has 40 made three-pointers on the season — good for most on the team. That skill has been put on full display the past few games.
Ekh has really found her stride in the heart of conference play, averaging 22.7 points over the last three games against Big Ten opponents. In these games against Ohio State, Northwestern and Minnesota, she’s scored 45 of her 68 points off her signature three-point shot.
While her consistency from behind the arc has been an asset this season, she’s also been learning to drive the ball through the defense to find new ways to create offense. This new skill was vital to MSU’s victory over Minnesota on Sunday.
“Matilda’s a shooter that’s learned at this level you gotta be able to put it on the floor too,” Michigan State women's basketball Head Coach Suzy Merchant said. “You can’t just be a three point shooter and I think she showed that today. She had pull ups, she got to the rim, she drove and penetrated and kicked so as good as a job as she did knocking it down and taking those shots, whether it be in transition or on offense. I think she also recognizes that she’s gotta be a three-level scorer and she’s been doing that.”
Although this is her first season at MSU, Ekh is no stranger to high-level play. Before she was a Spartan, she played with the Swedish First League and other high-level teams in Sweden that prepared her for the highly competitive Big Ten.
She consistently steps up on both ends of the court when her teammates need her, such as when she took five charges during MSU’s win over Northwestern. Ekh, along with freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann, have exceeded all expectations of first-year players. Because of their advanced basketball IQ, senior guard Nia Clouden no longer views them as freshmen.
“I feel like they’re not even freshmen anymore,” Clouden said. “They’ve got so much experience now and they’ve been in the big games and they’ve both made big plays before and they’ve helped us win. That’s what’s expected of them and they’re really good at their jobs.”
Ekh appreciates the trust the veteran leadership has put in the young freshmen this season.
“It's fun,” Ekh said. “It means that we’re gonna get more trust and we’re gonna get better playing with each other, so it feels great having this much trust as a freshman.”
Because of her textbook shooting form, the team has also put their trust in Ekh to take last-second shots from behind the arc. In their games against both Northwestern and Minnesota, she was given the green light to fire long-range three pointers with under three seconds left in the half and made them both.
Both of these buzzer beaters gave the Spartans the momentum they needed to create a surge in the second half of each game, allowing them to pull off two much-needed wins. On her ability to knock down clutch shots, Ekh was quite modest.
“I couldn’t do very much else then shoot it, so I just hope for it to go in,” Ekh said.
Ekh will look to build off her success when she and the Spartans travel to their next stop on their tour around the Big Ten at University Park to take on Penn State on Thursday.
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