Michigan State women’s hoops is looking to bounce back from a tough loss against Maryland when they take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road Sunday. This will be the second time these two teams face off the season after the Spartans defeated the Gophers 74-71 in a thrilling, down to the wire face-off.
The Spartans are 12-9 overall and are hanging around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten standings with a 6-4 conference record this season. Although the Gophers put up a fight in East Lansing, they are 10-13 overall and 3-8 in conference play.
In their first meeting the Gophers were able to take control in the first half and keep a solid lead before MSU came alive in the fourth quarter to pull off the win.
Because of MSU’s struggles in road games, if Minnesota gets off to another hot start like they had in East Lansing, the Spartans may not be able to recover as well as they did at home.
They are currently 3-6 when playing outside of the Breslin Center and just recently got their first win outside of the state of Michigan with their win at Penn State, so the venue could affect this matchup’s outcome
In their last showdown, Minnesota junior guard Sara Scalia and MSU freshman forward Matilda Ekh battled it out from behind the arc. Ekh went 5-9 and finished with 23 points while Scalia went 7-13 and finished with 31 points. If these two can provide that kind of production again, we could be in for another battle that ends in a fourth quarter thriller.
Adding to this battle in East Lansing was graduate student Deja Winters — who finished with 17 points and five steals. If the Spartans want to pull off the sweep, they’ll have to find a way to guard her and Scalia and limit Minnesota’s second chance points as they scored 15 in their last meeting.
The Spartans will also need a full game from their star senior guard Nia Clouden. Clouden has undoubtedly been the leader of the team this year and also the most consistent, averaging 21 points per game. In the past few games, however, she hasn’t been able to get hot until the second half, something she wants to improve on after the team’s loss to Maryland.
“I think I shot the ball well but there are obviously a lot of things I could improve on, especially putting together a complete game instead of just scoring in the second half,” Clouden said.
She finished with 25 points in their last contest, so as long as she can provide that kind of scoring and Ekh can find her stride, the Spartans should be able to have a repeat of their combined 48 point performance on Sunday.
After Sunday’s showdown, MSU will return home to take on their rivals, the Michigan Wolverines. The Spartans will need to build their confidence with their game at Minnesota to prepare to take on the Wolverines who are the No. 1 team in the Big Ten.
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