Michigan State failed their third attempted sweep this season at No. 6 Michigan tonight.
The Spartans came out of the gate strong, a sentence that hasn’t been uttered much, if at all, this season. They had a lot of hype to live up to after upsetting a then No. 4 Michigan (22-4, 13-3) at the Breslin Center earlier this month.
However, the air deflated from their ego balloon faster than expected tonight, and they eventually found themselves in a deep rut, falling 62-51 at the final buzzer.
After Wednesday’s practice, freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann said she was excited and “ready to get another dub.” She’s not a typical scorer for the Spartans – it’s actually something Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant has said the Detroit-native needs to continue to work on in order to expand her dependability for the green and white on the court.
Hagemann scored eight points just in the first ten minutes, putting the Spartans up 12-4 for a lengthy moment before UMich senior forward Naz Hillmon managed to shrink the gap to two possessions at the buzzer. Hillmon collected 17 points alone in the first half, while Hagemann tallied 13 for the Spartans, nearing her career-high (15) in only 20 minutes.
Michigan finally caught up and claimed the lead with mere minutes to play in the second quarter. Two icy back-to-back three pointers from junior guard Maddie Nolan had the Spartans shaking a little. They were doing good boxing out in the paint, but they weren’t ready for the wide range shooters Michigan has up their sleeves.
Rule number one of a rivalry is to never show fear in front of your enemies. So, the Spartans remained composed. Two free throws from senior guard Nia Clouden tied the board at 32 points a piece going into the locker room.
The narrative turned out to just be in reverse for the Spartans tonight.
The third quarter start was too calm for the way Michigan was responding. Freshman guard Matilda Ekh and junior center Taiyier Parks were doing a decent job boxing out Hillmon under the net in a double-team attack. At one point in the third quarter, they forced Hillmon to blind pass to a teammate, after having left her wide open for a three-pointer, that she didn’t even attempt, the possession before.
On the scoring end, Ekh was having another off night against the Wolverines. The last time the teams met, Ekh scored two clutch three-pointers to aid in the Spartans’ victory. By the end of the fourth quarter, she had only scored two points, pulled two rebounds and two steals.
Merchant said that Parks really needed to step up after her poor performance against Penn State that cost them a key victory on Monday, along with graduate forward Alisia Smith. While Parks played a key role in the five spot with six rebounds and one assist, Smith was able to pull seven rebounds and a block. Not their best effort, but surefire improvement from before.
Clouden and Hagemann finished the night leading the green and white with 22 and 13 points respectively. Hagemann also had four rebounds and three assists. Hillmon led the way for Michigan with 28 points in 31 minutes, eight rebounds, two assists, one block and one steal. A strong way to end her career as a Wolverine.
The Spartans fall 14-13, 8-8 on the season. They have one final game scheduled for Sunday against No. 17 Ohio State (20-5, 12-4 Big Ten), where they will honor Clouden, graduate forwards Tamara Farquhar and Alisia Smith and graduate walk-on guard Laurel Jacqmain.
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