Sunday, February 25, 2024

FINAL: MSU 61, Rutgers 45: Spartans get 4th consecutive conference win

January 30, 2022
<p>Then-sophomore guard Nia Clouden (24) during the women&#x27;s basketball game against Rutgers at the Breslin Center on Feb. 13, 2020. The Spartans ended a five-game losing streak and defeated the Scarlet Knights, 57-53. </p>

Then-sophomore guard Nia Clouden (24) during the women's basketball game against Rutgers at the Breslin Center on Feb. 13, 2020. The Spartans ended a five-game losing streak and defeated the Scarlet Knights, 57-53.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball defeated the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 61-45 in Piscataway, New Jersey on Sunday to grow their winning streak to four games. The Spartans advance to 12-8 overall and 6-3 in the Big Ten after overcoming a 12-point deficit to get a big win in the Garden State.

The Scarlet Knights came reading to play, breaking the game open with a 16-4 early lead over the Spartans. MSU struggled early to defend against graduate student guard Shug Dickson and senior guard Lasha Petree who took control of the game and couldn’t capitalize on any offensive opportunities on their side of the court. 

Things started to turn around when Rutgers star graduate student forward Osh Brown had to sit with two fouls in the first quarter. MSU was able to fight its way back when freshman forward Matilda Ekh hit a much-needed three-pointer to give the Spartans some momentum which then led to senior guard Nia Clouden completing a three-point play to cut the Scarlet Knight’s lead to three. 

The Spartans used the second half of the first quarter to make up some ground after being down by as much as 12 points but were unable to take the lead. This didn’t happen until the second quarter when junior forward Jayla James hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 18-18 and then graduate student forward Alisia Smith immediately hit her signature mid-range jumper to give the Spartans their first lead of the game 20-18.

After the Spartans took their first lead the game remained a close one, but MSU took the upper hand quickly. Once their defense recovered they were able to force Rutgers into 10 turnovers in just the first half and take an eight-point lead going into the locker room at halftime.

Rutgers was able to regroup at halftime and came out like they started the game, ready to play. They immediately cut MSU's lead to four to make the game much more competitive. The Achilles heel for Rutgers was their foul trouble. Some of their most reliable players Singleton and Brown had to head to the bench after collecting too many fouls, something the Spartans took advantage of by sending the ball to the post where they knew the Rutgers stars would be more likely to pick up another one.

Cashing in on this opportunity were post players junior center Taiyier Parks and Smith who took control of the post to draw some fouls and get some easy buckets for the Spartans. They finished with 11 and 14 points respectively.

Although the Spartans were able to keep a comfortable lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Scarlet Knights weren't done yet. Brown came alive in the fourth quarter to cut MSU's lead to five with five minutes left in the game, but once again Ekh knocked down another three-pointer after some crucial defensive stops to keep the Spartans on top. After they got this momentum and Brown fouled out of the game, Rutgers was unable to get back in it and the Spartans were able to pull off a win.

The Spartans will now return home to take on a strong Maryland team on Thursday, Feb. 3 as they look to move up in the Big Ten standings. MSU has a difficult road ahead of them as they will also have to take on some highly ranked teams such as Michigan, Ohio State and a possible makeup game with the number one team in the Big Ten — Indiana.

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