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Know Thy Enemy: Michigan State looks to bury the Gophers in East Lansing

January 23, 2022
<p>Then-sophomore guard Nia Clouden (24) holds a follow-through during the game against Minnesota Feb. 17, 2020 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Golden Gophers, 66-54.</p>

Then-sophomore guard Nia Clouden (24) holds a follow-through during the game against Minnesota Feb. 17, 2020 at the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Golden Gophers, 66-54.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball is looking to build on their big home victory against the Northwestern Wildcats last week when they welcome the Minnesota Gophers to East Lansing this Sunday. The Spartans enter the matchup 9-8 overall and 3-3 in conference play while the Gophers are 9-10 overall and 2-5 in conference play. 

Although the Spartans were able to pull off a win against the Wildcats, they have struggled with consistency this season and haven’t been able to win on the road. They are 1-4 in away games, 0-2 in neutral locations and have yet to win outside the state of Michigan. So playing in East Lansing, where they’ve played eight of their nine victories, will be a huge advantage for MSU.

This will be MSU’s first game in a week after their matchup with Indiana that was supposed to take place last Wednesday was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Hoosier program.

Also dealing with the effects of COVID-19 was Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant who had to sit out of the Northwestern game and was scheduled to miss the Indiana game due to testing positive for the virus. She is expected to return to the sidelines Sunday to coach against Minnesota.

Ahead of Sunday’s matchup, The State News' women’s basketball reporter Jenna Malinowski spoke with Tony Liebert, a sports reporter at the Minnesota Daily to get a comprehensive look at MSU’s upcoming competition. 

Q: I see that Minnesota is 9-9 overall right now but is struggling a little bit in conference play. What is going well for them and what do they need to work on?

A: The Gophers returned 12 of 13 players from last season while adding two transfers (Deja Winters and Bailey Helgren) and a true freshman (Alanna Michaeux) who have all played significant roles this season. They were expected to have a bounce-back season after going 8-13 last season, but they have struggled to find consistency. They have faced a lot of the same problems they had last season, struggling on the defensive end and being too inconsistent on offense. They have the talent, but they just have not strung it together.

Q: How has their performance on the road differed from home games this season?

A: Minnesota is 3-2 on the road this season and 5-5 at home. It has been a similar story wherever the games have been played. It continues to be up and down performances.

Q: What’s Minnesota’s plan to stop senior guard Nia Clouden, who has been the star for the Spartans and dropped 50 points not too long ago?

A: Veteran junior guards Sara Scalia and Jasmine Powell are the leaders for Minnesota and I would imagine they would be tasked with trying to slow down Clouden.

Q: Who’s the overall top player MSU should look out for and who’s on a hot streak right now for the Gophers?

A: Since moving into the starting lineup early in the season, North Carolina A&T transfer (and graduate student) Deja Winters continues to improve, but the team is led by Powell and Scalia. The Gophers will only be as good as their veteran duo.

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