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MSU women’s basketball starting five performed strongly in win over Northwestern

January 17, 2024
Michigan State University sophomore guard Abbey Kimball (2) guarding the ball at the game against Northwestern University at the Breslin Center on Jan. 17, 2024.
Michigan State University sophomore guard Abbey Kimball (2) guarding the ball at the game against Northwestern University at the Breslin Center on Jan. 17, 2024.

The Michigan State women's basketball team picked up another win on Wednesday night after defeating Northwestern comfortably with a final score of 91-72. The win over the Wildcats marks the second Big Ten win in a row for the Spartans, and the team’s third Big Ten win out of six on the season. 

As the Spartans head into the second half of the season, which is full of Big Ten games, it is starting to become clear that head coach Robyn Fralick has found her starting five: junior guard DeeDee Hagemann, sophomore guard Abbey Kimball, junior guard/forward Jocelyn Tate, graduate guard Moira Joiner and graduate guard Julia Ayrault

This lineup may have already solidified itself a few weeks back, but they have officially hit the mark with the win over the Wildcats. The mentioned starting lineup has played a total of 14 games this year and after the win, they are now 10-4. 

The Spartans have found themselves successful when starting this lineup and got similar results against Northwestern. Four of the five starters scored in double digits, and all five of them combined for 59 of the 91 points scored against Northwestern. 

Hagemann finished the night with 10 points – including three three-pointers – and eight assists. Her eight assists moved her up to 365 total assists on the season and added to her accomplishment of now having nine games this season with five or more assists.

Assists have been a key point to the team this year and Hagemann has been one of the main players dishing the passes out. After the game, she talked about the natural feeling of her ball-handling and passing. 

"I feel like everything really just comes to me in that moment," Hagemann said. "I know a lot of people are like, 'I don't even know how you saw that.' Sometimes, I don't even know how. I just feel like I just try to put my teammates in the best position possible."

Julia Ayrault had a huge night down low on both sides of the court as she finished the game with 16 points, one assist, six rebounds and three blocks. 

Moira Joiner continued to climb the ladder to 1,000 career points after scoring 14 points tonight, making her just 12 points away from a career milestone. Joiner also finished the night with six assists and one rebound while hitting four three-pointers. 

Tate was the only starter out of the five to not hit double-digits, but even so, she finished the game with seven points, four assists, five rebounds and one steal.

Kimball finished the game with 12 points, three assists, two rebounds and three steals. The sophomore also hit two three-pointers that helped keep the momentum on the side of the Spartans during a time when both teams were aggressive.

After the game, Kimball spoke on her growth this year as she has become a key component of the offense. 

"I think that a lot of the growth came from our new coaching staff like they're always on the court," Kimball said. "I think that working out and doing different drills all the time and having someone put you through a workout has developed my skills even more."

Coach Fralick also took a moment after the game to talk about Kimball's growth as a player this year.

"She's a really hard worker, she's always creating space because she is always a threat," Fralick said. "To be able to score from so many different spots on the court and she's solid, she takes care of the ball. It was just good to see tonight."

While the current starting five has been successful so far, they will continue to be battle-tested as the season progresses. Along with that, it is not solely the starting five that is getting this team over the hill in its wins, but it is the effort of the entire team and how the rotations are handled, something Fralick focuses on every game. 

"I think we've had really good different lineups, and we've had really good play off the bench," Fralick said. "I just think rotations and different lineups have been good for us and on different nights."

Although the starters combined for 59 points, there were multiple different team efforts, including the effort of both guard/forward Tory Ozment and guard Theryn Hallock, who both also finished the game in double digits for points.

Fralick also said that it will have to be a continuous team effort moving forward but that she was proud of her team for the effort shown during the night. 

"I think there's a high level of engagement of everybody whether they're playing a big role or not getting in the game," Fralick said.

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Next up, the Spartans will head out to Minneapolis to face off against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 3 p.m. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

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