Thursday, February 29, 2024

Preview: MSU women's basketball looks to upset No. 22 Illinois on the road

January 29, 2023
<p>Freshman guard Matilda Ekh (11) rushes past Illinois&#x27; defense during the third quarter. The Spartans beat the Fighting Illini, 75-60, in their Big Ten opener on Dec. 9, 2021. </p>

Freshman guard Matilda Ekh (11) rushes past Illinois' defense during the third quarter. The Spartans beat the Fighting Illini, 75-60, in their Big Ten opener on Dec. 9, 2021.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

After a dominant 85-63 victory over Rutgers at home Sunday afternoon, the Michigan State women’s basketball team (11-9, 3-6) will be looking to upset No. 22 Illinois (16-5, 6-4) on the road Sunday night.

The Fighting Illini are coming into Sunday’s game off of a 62-52 loss to Purdue on Thursday night.

The Spartans will be traveling to Champaign without Head Coach Suzy Merchant after Merchant was involved in a single-vehicle accident Saturday morning due to a medical incident.

It was announced that Merchant is in stable condition at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, but in her absence, associate head coach Dean Lockwood will act as interim head coach against Illinois.

In their last time out, the Spartans pulled off a dominant win against Rutgers. Both sophomore guard Matilda Ekh and senior guard Moira Joiner logged 13 points. Sunday’s game became Ekh’s 14th game this season in double figures and Joiner’s 11th.

Joiner’s lone three of the game was the 111th three-pointer of her career, making her tied for 16th place in Michigan State history.

Also sinking 13 points during the game against Rutgers was freshman guard Abbey Kimball. Kimball started off the season battling illness and injury which lead to her not seeing the court much this season, but the freshman’s career-high performance last week was a huge contributor to the solid win over the Scarlet Knights.

Illinois has four players averaging double-digit games this season. The Illini are lead by junior guard Makira Cook who averages 17.8 points per game. Cook is currently ranked seventh in the league in scoring.

Former Spartan, junior forward Kendall Bostic, is another Illini averaging double-digits at 10.2 points per game.

In the Big Ten standings, Michigan State and Illinois are neck and neck in many of the categories.

MSU is fourth in the conference in scoring (80.2 ppg), and Illinois is fifth (78.2). In field goal percentage, Illinois is sixth in the Big Ten (.463), and Michigan State is eighth (.434).

Although many categories are similar, there are a few where the Spartans come out clear on top—MSU is third in the conference in steals (11.15 per game), and Illinois is last (6.48 per game). Michigan State also trumps Illinois in assists per game—MSU is third in the conference (18.25 per game), and Illinois is 13th (14.43 per game).

Michigan State leads the all time series against the Illini 46-28, but in Champaign, the Spartan record is slashed to just 18-15.

It has been nearly ten years since the Fighting Illini have been able to secure a win over Michigan State. Their last win over the Spartans was a ten point 61-51 victory in 2014.

Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Illinois, and the game will be streaming on Big Ten Network.

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