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Preview: MSU women's basketball looks to take down Nebraska in second straight game without Merchant

February 2, 2023
Sophomore forward Julia Ayrault shoots over Nebraska's freshman guard Ruby Porter during the Spartans' matchup with the Cornhuskers on Jan. 10, 2020.
Sophomore forward Julia Ayrault shoots over Nebraska's freshman guard Ruby Porter during the Spartans' matchup with the Cornhuskers on Jan. 10, 2020. —
Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball (11-10, 3-7) is looking to bounce back from its failed comeback Sunday against Illinois when the Spartans take on Nebraska (12-9, 4-6) on the road Thursday night.

The Cornhuskers are going into Thursday on a two-game losing skid and a narrow 76-80 loss to No. 6 Iowa.

The Spartans are still without Head Women's Basketball Coach Suzy Merchant after a minor single-vehicle accident on Saturday morning that prevented her from traveling to Champagne with the team on Sunday.

Interim Head Coach Dean Lockwood said that the team’s game plan going into the Illinois matchup was fledged out by Merchant before her accident, but Nebraska is a different story.

“Illinois was different because we had the bye week and so a lot of that was already in—she had been here, so there weren't a lot of changes in that,” Lockwood said. “This—it's been a little bit different cause obviously she hasn't been here, and we've talked about Nebraska a little bit, certainly—but again, the main thing (is) just making sure that she was okay…I want to make sure she has space but know that we're here for her and we got her back.” 

In their game against Illinois, senior guard Moira Joiner logged her third straight game in double-digits. Joiner has made a huge impact this season. The senior now has 12 double-digit games this season—including five of the last six.

The Spartans uncharacteristically struggled from the three-point line making just 8-27 shots. A large contributor for that .296 three-point percentage was an off game for sophomore guard/forward Matilda Ekh. Ekh was 0-5 from deep, making the road test against Illinois her first game this season without a single three.

Michigan State and Nebraska have had pretty similar season so far, and it shows in the resemblance of their records.

“They've been a little bit like us,” Lockwood said. “A little bit topsy turvy, but they've been right there in game. We have a ton of respect for this Nebraska team going into this thing, especially at their place where they're tough to beat.” 

The Spartans and the Cornhuskers have met 14 times in the past, and the Huskers hold the edge with a 9-5 record, but Michigan State has defeated Nebraska in two of their last three meetings.

The Cornhuskers have been injury plagued this season. Regardless, the team is ranked first in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (.378), and the defensive matchup against the Spartan offense should be something to look out for throughout the game.

Tipoff from Lincoln, Nebraska is set for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2 and the game will be broadcasted on Big Ten Network.

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