Michigan State women’s basketball got the momentum they needed to take on No.7 Indiana when they took down No. 4 Michigan on Thursday. The Spartans had little time to celebrate as they had to pack up and head to Bloomington for their matchup with the Hoosiers today at 3 p.m. Interestingly enough, Indiana’s only conference loss this season came against the Wolverines.
It’s undeniable that the Spartans need to pick up some key wins in order to make a push for the NCAA tournament and the win over Michigan was just what they needed to keep their hopes alive. If they’re able to take the grit and ferocity they brought Thursday and reproduce it on Saturday to complete back-to-back upsets, it’s highly likely they’ll be getting some second looks from the tournament committee as the season winds down.
Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant knows what lies ahead but is taking the “one game at a time” approach going forward.
“We’re just gonna play the game in front of us,” Merchant said. “We’ve had some crazy things happen to us, losing four veteran perimeter starters kinda changes things a little bit, so we’re just playing a little bit of catch up but our goal right now is just to play together and play smart, play tough, compete every game. I think they’re really good at picking up what we wanna do gameplan wise and as long as we do that we’ll worry about where we end up. We have some work to do there’s no question, but a win like this is helpful certainly.”
To make this push, MSU will need its leader senior guard Nia Clouden to set the example for her young team. Clouden has been an unstoppable force all season long for the Spartans and led her team to victory over the Wolverines with 20 points.
“She’s just a tremendous player,” Michigan Head Coach Kim Barnes-Arico said. “I mean the big three she made at the end of the third quarter was just phenomenal and when the ball is in her hands, you always feel like something is gonna happen. She’s a dynamic player and I know she’s worked incredibly hard because I’ve watched her since high school improve each and every year and that’s just a credit to her, but I can’t wait for her to graduate so we don’t have to play against her anymore.”
Because of the loss of four veteran players, MSU’s freshmen have been forced to step up early and learn from Clouden’s example rather quickly. Despite being thrown in the deep end, freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann and freshman forwards Matilda Ekh and Isaline Alexander have settled in nicely and placed a huge role in the program’s first victory over a top-five team since 2018.
“I’m proud of what they’re doing,” Merchant said. “We’re asking them to play bigger roles than they should.”
Alexander especially stepped up against Michigan, finishing with seven points and four rebounds and playing a season high 16 minutes in the biggest game of the season. Merchant emphasized that the team is going to need her as they close out the season with multiple games with little turnaround.
If the Spartans are going to pull off back-to-back upset wins over top ten teams with a win over the Hoosiers, they will need consistency from the team, especially the freshmen. Clouden, as always, will need to play at her advanced level for all four quarters of the game. If the consistency travels with the team, the Spartans will undoubtedly make it a close one in Bloomington.
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