Michigan State women’s basketball lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes 74-58 in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. This loss officially ends their chances at the NCAA Tourney, but the NIT remains available.
The game as a whole got off to a slow start with neither team scoring in the first three minutes, but OSU was able to use the other seven minutes to completely dominate the Spartans.
They were able to break open the game in the first quarter due to redshirt sophomore guard Rikki Harris breaking apart MSU’s defense with a quick eight points, leading the way for her teammates to follow.
Right behind her was junior guard Jacy Sheldon and senior guard Taylor Mikesell who were key offensive figures that scored from everywhere on the court and helped put the Buckeyes ahead early. Sheldon finished with 19 points while Mikesell finished with 18 points.
While the Buckeyes were able to figure out the Spartan defense, MSU struggled to get anything going offensively early on and were rushed into taking bad shots due to the time it took for them to get past OSU’s full-court press, a similar problem they’ve had during their previous two matchups.
Although this was their third meeting of the season, the Spartans still had no answer for OSU’s long-range shooting. The Buckeyes went 34% from behind the arc compared to the Spartans who couldn’t seem to get any of their usual perimeter players to knock down the shots they needed. OSU’s defense was even able to hold senior guard Nia Clouden to just two points and didn’t allow her to put up a single three-point attempt in the first half. She and the Spartans went to the locker room at halftime down by 14.
In Clouden's rare off night, she needed her team to step up and provide some scoring. Freshman forward Matilda Ekh shook off her recent slump by going 5-9 from behind the arc and finishing with 19 points. The post players were also forced to step up and get something going offensively for the Spartans. Graduate student forward Alisia Smith showed off her mid-range jumper once again to provide a solid eight points while walking the tightrope with four fouls.
MSU didn't start showing any signs of life until halfway through the third quarter when they were able to cut the lead to as little as eight points thanks to some clutch shooting from Ekh and Clouden to keep them in the game. After struggling offensively to end the regular season, Ekh officially got her groove back in the third quarter. She finished the third with 11 points and went 3-4 from behind the arc.
Throughout the fourth quarter, the Spartans were able to keep the game within 10 points, and with four minutes to play, they made their move. They kept pushing the ball up the court to cut the lead to eight, but still needed some defensive stops and Ekh provided. She blocked a jumper from Harris and she didn't just tip the ball out of her hands, she had enough power on it to push it up to freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann who ran it up the court for a contested layup that she made on an acrobatic play to cut OSU's lead to six.
The Spartan's comeback was quickly silenced by back-to-back threes from Harris and Mikesell that MSU and Ekh were unable to answer, going 0-2 from behind the arc in between those possessions. That was the final nail in the coffin with the Buckeyes officially handing the Spartans their third loss of the season.
The Spartans will finish the season 15-14 overall and 8-9 in conference play. This record, including their 1-1 Big Ten tournament record, will be unlikely to get them an NCAA tournament bid.
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