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Preview: MSU women's basketball prepares for first Big Ten matchup against Nebraska

December 8, 2023
<p>Freshmen center Mary Meng (21) looks back as the women's basketball team sings Shadows after its win over Detroit Mercy on Nov. 16, 2023.</p>

Freshmen center Mary Meng (21) looks back as the women's basketball team sings Shadows after its win over Detroit Mercy on Nov. 16, 2023.

Photo by Henry Szymecko | The State News

After returning home to East Lansing and defending its undefeated home record in an 89-44 win over Miami University (OH), the Michigan State women’s basketball team will have the opportunity to get a leg up in the Big Ten Conference

The Spartans will be taking on the University of Nebraska in both team’s first Big Ten matchup of the season. The Cornhuskers are coming off a substantial 108-35 win against UNC Wilmington on Dec. 5

Nebraska is led by eight-year head coach Amy Williams who holds a positive 122-101 record during her tenure for the Cornhuskers. Just like the Spartans, the Cornhuskers have had a hot start to their season as they currently hold a 7-2 record so far

Both teams share a common loss to the season in that both teams fell to Crieghton for their very first loss of the season. However, the matchup between the Bluejays and the Cornhuskers was much closer (79-74) than the Spartan’s loss to the Bluejays (83-69).

So far, the Cornhuskers have been dismantling offenses with their tight defense, only allowing teams to score 57.1 points on average while also putting up 81.7 points per game on average.

Michigan State will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak in Big Ten openers while at the same time head coach Robyn Fralick will be looking to win her first Big Ten opener at Michigan State.

Although MSU statistically has a higher-powered offense, as they are No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring and scoring margin, the Cornhuskers offense comes from a completely different area on the court

While MSU focuses on ball movement and good shot selections, Nebraska has an efficient point guard and center operation. Graduate student guard Jaz Shelly is an efficient ball handler and facilitator. She is coming off of her second career triple-double in the Cornhusker’s last match against UNCW.  Shelly’s playstyle pairs well with junior center Alexis Markowski who is known for her play down low

Markowski is the fifth-leading scorer in the conference and is also the sole leader in rebounds this year as she averages nearly 17 points a game while also grabbing an average of 9.6 rebounds per outing

Fralick had a lot to say about both Markowski and Shelly as the Spartans prepare to take on the efficient guard-center combo

“She’s (Markowski) unique and a matchup for us. We played a number of good teams but nobody with a sort of post presence like she has and the ability to score in the paint like she has, so yes she’s a different preparation,” Fralick said about Markowski

“She’s (Shelley) a really good player too. She’s the same thing really experienced, had a lot of success for a while at Nebraska. She does a lot of things well and she’s a player that impacts the game in a lot of ways,” Fralick said, this time about Shelley. “She’s gonna be a matchup we got to keep a really good eye on." 

As Fralick mentioned, the Spartans have yet to play against a premier down-low talent like Markowski which has allowed the team to continue running with a “small-ball” lineup. The Spartans will look to use their athleticism and speed to outplay the paint play from Nebraska

Graduate student guard Moria Joiner knows that the Spartans will have to take advantage of every opportunity they are given on Saturday.

“They’re bigger than us. Like we’re smaller and faster, but they’re definitely bigger, so we have to guard them the right way, and make sure that we get every offensive and defensive rebound,” Joiner said

It will not be an easy first conference matchup for either team as they both have continued to trade games back and forth throughout the last few years. While Nebraska holds the series lead at 10-6 over Michigan State, MSU holds the advantage inside the Breslin at 5-3. 

The Spartans will look to keep their undefeated home streak alive and also advance another game in their series with the Cornhuskers on Saturday, Dec. 9. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. 

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