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Preview: MSU women's basketball looks for senior night win over Minnesota

February 22, 2023
<p>Freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh moves to shoot against Minnesota graduate student guard Gadiva Hubbard on Jan. 23, 2022.</p><p></p><p></p>

Freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh moves to shoot against Minnesota graduate student guard Gadiva Hubbard on Jan. 23, 2022.

Last Saturday, the Michigan State women’s basketball team returned to the court following the mass shooting on campus that took the lives of three students and injured five others. After the close 66-61 loss in an emotional game against No. 8 Maryland, the Spartans are looking to bounce back Wednesday night as they take on Minnesota in their last home game of the season.

With the last home game of the season also comes the annual senior night celebration. Senior forward Jayla James and graduate student guard Stephanie Visscher and Kamaria McDaniel are the three seniors that will be honored on Wednesday following the game.

It's still unclear at this time when Head Women's Basketball Coach Suzy Merchant will return to the sidelines. Merchant has been away from the team since the end of January after she was involved in a car accident caused by a medical episode. In the meantime, Associate Head Coach Dean Lockwood has stepped up to lead the team in her absence.

The game against Maryland was yet another hard-fought battle by the Spartans despite the tragic week, and redshirt junior Julia Ayrault made a difference during the matchup. Ayrault is moving into Wednesday night after a season-high afternoon in points, blocks and three pointers made against the Terrapins.

The Golden Gophers are going into the Breslin Center on Wednesday following a 76-62 loss to Northwestern on the road. Minnesota currently sits at 10-17 on the season and 3-13 in conference play in comparison to Michigan State’s 13-13 season record and 5-10 conference record.

The Spartans lead the series all-time against the Golden Gophers 46-24 and have taken the past seven matchups at the Breslin Center. MSU took the first game in the series last year, but In their last meeting, Michigan State fell to Minnesota on the road. In that loss last season, sophomore guard/forward Matilda Ekh hit double figures for her seventh game in a row.

The Spartans top the Golden Gophers in just about every statistic, but Minnesota does have the edge over MSU in rebounding. The Gophers lead the Big Ten conference with an average of 42.3 rebounds per game, whereas Michigan State averages just 39.0 rebounds per game.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, Minnesota also has the advantage in free throw percentage. Free throws have been consistently hindering MSU recently. In their last game, Maryland took 37 shots from the free throw line in comparison to Michigan State’s 24. With a free throw percentage of 73.1%, too many Minnesota trips to the line could be a big factor in deciding the Big Ten matchup.

Tipoff on Wednesday night is set for 7 p.m. at the Breslin Center. The game will also be available to stream on BTN+.

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