Friday, January 28, 2022

What you missed over winter break for Michigan State athletics

January 13, 2022
<p>The Spartans celebrate their Peach Bowl victory on Mercedes-Benz field. Dec. 30, 2021.</p>

The Spartans celebrate their Peach Bowl victory on Mercedes-Benz field. Dec. 30, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

With the start of spring semester, it’s only right we review what happened in Michigan State athletics over winter break. Below is a rundown of everything  you might of missed while enjoying the holiday break.

Basketball

After their week long pause to complete finals, the men’s and women’s basketball teams set out to complete the remainder of their scheduled non-conference games.

The women traveled south to West Palm Beach, Florida, for a two-day invitational event. The first game against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 20 proved to be a record-breaking one when senior guard Nia Clouden surpassed All-American Tori Jankoska’s record of 42 points that had been set back in 2017 and became the first athlete in MSU women’s basketball history to post 50 points in a single game. She is now tied in the record books with former men’s basketball player Terry Furlow, who set the 50-point record in 1976.

Despite Clouden’s hard work, the Spartans fell 85-84 in double overtime, and the second game against West Virginia on Dec. 21 showed no improvement when they fell 74-54. Clouden has recorded nine 20-plus point games this season. She has also moved up to No. 7 on the MSU all-time career scoring list and is sixth in the nation for scoring, averaging 22.5 points per game.

The men opened their winter break stint hot and ready with a game against Oakland at Little Caesars Arena, where they took down the Golden Grizzlies 90-78. Senior center Marcus Bingham Jr. had his best offensive performance of the year, scoring 17 points on eight of 10 shooting.

They then took on coaching legend Tubby Smith's High Point squad. The Spartans trailed at half but heroics from senior forwards Gabe Brown and Joey Hauser in the second half propelled them to a 13-point victory.

The Spartans then returned to Big Ten action with a gritty win against Northwestern on the road that saw fouls galore in addition to poor offense. Freshman guard Max Christie was crucial not only against his hometown Northwestern squad, but also against their next opponent, Nebraska. Christie helped take down the Cornhuskers in the final game over the holiday break with an efficient 21 points on seven baskets on nine attempts.

The surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant impacted both programs heavily over the break.

The women were without freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann and graduate student guard Laurel Jacqmain for their Dec. 30 matchup against a previously undefeated Nebraska. Junior guard Moira Joiner was also out experiencing concussion symptoms. However, they were able to overcome the adversity at hand and the Cornhuskers were forced to succumb to their first loss of the season, 72-69.

The Spartan ladies road game against Northwestern on Jan. 3 was later canceled due to continued COVID-19 issues in the Wildcats’ program.

The men lost freshman guards Max Christie and Pierre Brooks, Bingham and walk-on junior guard Steven Izzo for their game against High Point on Dec. 29.

The COVID-19 issues didn’t stop there, as the men’s game against rival Michigan was postponed. The Wolverines were down to less than the Big Ten required minimum of seven athletes to play. A date has not been confirmed for the rematch.

The women had a chance to end the holiday break on a high note, but the Purdue Boilermakers surged in the fourth quarter as Clouden struggled on the offensive end as Purdue secured a 69-59 victory on Jan. 9.

And, in case you missed it, former MSU guard Alyza Winston announced her commitment to Mississippi State on New Year’s Day via Twitter.

Football

After Purdue outlasted Tennessee 48-45 in overtime during the Music City Bowl, it was No. 10 Michigan State’s turn to pull out the tricks in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

The first half of the game was rocky with a lot of doubt, as key player junior running back Kenneth Walker III opted out for the NFL Draft. The Spartans trailed No. 12 Pittsburgh 14-10 at the half with lots of offensive hiccups and the Panthers only extended that lead to 21 by the middle of the fourth quarter.

However, Head Coach Mel Tucker and his team are known for fourth-quarter dramatic comebacks. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne managed to connect to his high school buddy, redshirt junior wide receiver Jayden Reed, in the short right corner of the endzone for a touchdown to put the green and white up by three.

Like it had been all night, the defensive line was there to save the day and provide the dagger. With Pittsburgh driving down the field and less than a minute on the clock, redshirt freshman linebacker Cal Haladay intercepted the route and ran his second pick-six of the season into the endzone, finalizing the score at 31-21.

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Tucker ended his second year with the Spartans ranked No. 10 in the nation and 11-2 overall.

Following the victory, redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Nailor decided to forgo his senior year and declared for the NFL Draft as well as starting redshirt senior offensive lineman Kevin Jarvis, who declined to use his COVID-19 year and declared for the draft. In opposition, Reed posted to Twitter that he will be returning for his final year of eligibility and to take care of “unfinished business” in East Lansing. Senior safety Xavier Henderson will also return for the 2022 season.

Hockey

The hockey team competed in their Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29 and 30, where they fell 3-1 to Western Michigan in the first match and secured a 3-2 overtime upset against Michigan Tech in the second match.

In their last series during the winter break, the Spartans took on a strong Minnesota Gophers squad. Despite leading or being tied in both games late in the second period, the Gophers offense exploded in the latter half of both games to secure a road sweep over the Spartans. Despite being just on the outside looking in for a potential at-large NCAA tourney berth, the Spartans set themselves back with their poor showing.

New COVID-19 mandate for MSU athletics

MSU announced effective Jan. 1, all spectators attending indoor campus sporting events must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before event start time to be granted access.

The mask mandate is still in effect and the COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to attendees ages 12 and up.

To meet the vaccine requirement, fans must show their vaccination card, along with a photo ID matching the name on the card. Digital images of vaccine cards will be accepted.

If one is unable or unwilling to show proof of vaccination, they must bring a photo ID and a printout of their negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before the event start time.

Fans who are unable to attend are encouraged to transfer their tickets to others who are or offer their tickets for sale through StubHub, as refunds will not be granted.

This story was in our Jan. 11 print special edition. Read the full issue here.

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