Thursday, May 19, 2022

Preview: Elite meets elite on Thursday when Nia Clouden and Makenna Marisa faceoff

January 27, 2022
<p>Clouden rushes to the Penn State basket and sinks one easily in the second quarter. The Spartans finally defeated the Lady Lions 75-66 on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament hosted at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Shot on March 10, 2021.</p>

Clouden rushes to the Penn State basket and sinks one easily in the second quarter. The Spartans finally defeated the Lady Lions 75-66 on the second day of the Big Ten Tournament hosted at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Shot on March 10, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Looking at the numbers, it's safe to say elite will be meeting elite on Thursday night in the Bryce Jordan Center when Penn State junior guard Makenna Marisa and Michigan State senior guard Nia Clouden square off.

Marisa reached a major milestone after recording her 1,000th career point in the Nittany Lions loss to No. 23 Iowa on Tuesday evening. The game was her third 30-plus point game of the season, as she finished with 32 points and went 12-for-14 from the stripe. She's the 21st in Lady Lion history to reach 1,000 before the end of her third season and she's the 40th overall to do so.

Marisa is one of the most prolific scorers in the country. She led the board against the Hawkeyes, trumping sophomore guard Caitlin Clark by 12 points. She averages 22.3 points per game, coming in at seventh in the NCAA and second in the Big Ten for scoring.

Among those in the top flight in the scoring category is Clouden, who now has nearly 1,700 points after the Spartans win over Minnesota on Sunday afternoon. She's tied for the fifth in Lady Spartan history, matching Kisha Kelly, the first women's basketball All-American at MSU who played from 1991-95, and surpassing Allyssa DeHaan, the tallest player in MSU history standing at 6-foot-9 who played from 2006-10.

Clouden is ninth in the NCAA in scoring, averaging 19.9 points per game and carrying the top individual performance in the Big Ten this season as well after docking 50 against Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 21, 2021.

She's also still listed at No. 8 in all-time assists at MSU with 399.

It's safe to say this will be another defining match for Clouden's future prospects in the WNBA.

But, Clouden and Marisa aren't the only ones making big moves on the court.

Michigan State freshman forward Matilda Ekh received her second Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor on Monday afternoon after solidifying her third 20-plus point game and a career-high six assists.

She's now got 218 points on the season, and is 48 away from cracking the Freshman Top 15 list for most scoring in a single season – No. 15 is held by Norway-native and 1995 graduate Bella Engen with 266.

Ekh scored a team-high of five three-pointers against the Gophers, now with 40 on the season. She's cracked into the Top 5 list for most threes scored in a game by a freshman – previously in No. 5 was junior guard Moira Joiner with 39. She's also No. 2 on the freshman three-point percentage list with 43.5% from beyond the arc.

What will be the determining factor in this one is whether MSU can handle the ball. With consistency still lacking, defense and offense have their slip-ups. For example, the Spartans turn the ball over about four more times in losses than they do in wins.

Familiar faces will be seen amongst the court Thursday as well with junior forward Jayla James and graduate student center Alisia Smith taking the stage in their second seasons with the Spartans after transferring from the Lady Lions.

Smith is averaging 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game after pulling 10 boards against the Gophers to match graduate forward Tamara Farquhar's 11.

James has only appeared in 12 games so far and averages two to five minutes on the court at a time. The most play time she's seen was against Nebraska on Dec. 30, 2021, where she was utilized for almost an entire half.

MSU is 10-8 overall, 4-3 in-conference. They're 1-4 on the road, but 9-3 when scoring 70-plus points and they've become effective at second-half comebacks to close out their games as of late.

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