While it has been getting cold outside in East Lansing, Michigan State women’s basketball has stayed hot inside the Breslin Center. In their fifth and final game of their home stand to start the season, the Spartans hung over 100 points on the Florida A&M Rattlers, with the final score being 109-44. It was a group effort for the Spartans as thirteen players finished with five points or more.
The Spartans got off to a quick start as they led the Rattlers 13-5 in the first five minutes of the game.
For the rest of the quarter though, the Spartans offense stalled quite a bit and the defense was off balance as they finished the quarter only up 20-15.
The turnover battle was rather even after the first 10 minutes as MSU had six to the Rattlers eight.
Head Coach Suzy Merchant said her team looked a bit out of sorts as the opening minutes ticked away.
“Under the post, there's actions that we do. We didn't do that," Merchant said. "We tried to hold the ball and do one-on-one a lot. We drove the gap, they just came and took it from us. We really talked about that as much as we could in huddles and then at halftime that was a huge point of emphasis.
"And our ability to move the ball, share the ball, go inside out and then kill it, close out, and play north and south is something that we just have to get committed to. We have to kind of fall back on our training where we do it every day.”
Michigan State broke the game open early in the second quarter though as sophomore forward Matilda Ekh hit two triples. Sophomore guard DeeDee Hagemann also contributed to the hot start as she got a triple of her own to fall as well as a layup. She finished the half with a team high 10 points.
Senior guard Dylan Horton was keeping FAMU in the game as she had 11 on 4-7 shooting in the first 20 minutes.
The Spartans continued to hound Rattler ball handlers as they ended the half with 19 turnovers forced. They also held Florida A&M shooters captive in the half as they could only manage to convert on eight of their 25 attempts from the field and one of six of them from deep.
Ekh started off the third period similar to how she started the second. She hit another three two minutes in to push her total to 11 at that point.
The third quarter was a physical one as two intentional fouls were called on the Rattlers for two separate incidents. Junior guard Gabby Elliot got hit in the face by senior forward Staysha Allen and Horton got tangled up with Hagemann which led to some shoving from both parties.
After the game, FAMU Head Coach Shalon Pillow told Merchant that the foul on Elliot was not intentional and no ill will was meant behind the strike.
Turnovers continued to be an issue for MSU throughout the period as they ended the 30 minute stretch with 15.
Senior guard Moira Joiner and freshman guard Theyrn Hallock joined the scoring onslaught as they each hit on threes of their own in the period. Joiner also added a layup and Hallock had two free throws as well.
Again it was Ekh starting off the final quarter strong for MSU. She hit on a deep corner two to start the scoring in the last 10 minutes then followed up with a triple from a foot beyond where her previous shot came from. She finished with a game high 16 points on 4-9 shooting from deep and 6-12 shooting overall.
Although her big performance is key for her confidence, Ekh mentioned that the win is big for the team’s confidence in each other as well.
“I also feel like these games have been more of us learning each other and learning how to play well together and not really about who scores and who does what," Ekh said. "It’s more about learning how we're gonna play good as a team.”
Graduate guard Kamaria McDaniel continued her strong night deep into the final minutes of the game as she hit a three to push her game total to 14, the second highest on the team. She went 9-10 from the free throw stripe.
The Baylor transfer said that her three point shot has been a point of emphasis in her training but it’s a process.
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“I know I can probably get down hill whenever I want to, I just need to focus on my threes," McDaniel said. "More like coach said, Matilda opened it up. So I look for that, but I look for them when they in rhythm and open. It's been an adjustment for me coming back off my knee injury that I had a couple years ago so I'm really just getting into my rhythm and my flow. I'm not biting off more than I can chew.”
The defense for the Spartans was smothering once again throughout the second half as they managed to cause 27 turnovers in total by the Rattlers. FAMU also was not able to create much space for themselves to shoot as they finished 14-48 from the field and 2-12 from beyond the arc.
The Spartans will be headed to Mount Pleasant to face Central Michigan Saturday at 1 p.m. for their first road test of the year.
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