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Preview: MSU women's basketball looks to even Big Ten record, will face Northwestern

January 16, 2024
<p>Michigan State University women’s basketball team strategizes during the second quarter at a game against Nebraska at the Breslin Center on Dec. 9, 2023. The Spartans lost to the Cornhuskers 74-80.&nbsp;</p>

Michigan State University women’s basketball team strategizes during the second quarter at a game against Nebraska at the Breslin Center on Dec. 9, 2023. The Spartans lost to the Cornhuskers 74-80. 

After falling just short to Ohio State on the road, the Michigan State women’s basketball team will return to East Lansing to face off against another Big Ten opponent: Northwestern University. After the 70-65 loss to the Buckeyes, the Spartans dropped below .500 within the Big Ten again. Sitting at 2-3 within the conference, the Spartans will once again look to level their Big Ten record against the Wildcats. 

MSU evened out their Big Ten record last week against Maryland after digging themselves out of a first-half shooting slump where the Spartans only scored 22 points. Unfortunately, the .500 conference record was short-lived and the Spartans once again found themselves in this situation. 

Michigan State will have to get used to defending their Big Ten record as the rest of their opponents are all in-conference. The team and even fans will also have to get used to the exhausting schedule that is Big Ten women’s basketball. 

The Spartans will get the advantage of playing at home where they have defeated the Wildcats 14 times while only losing four since the year 2000 — an impressive statistic. The Spartans have also won the last two matchups against the Wildcats, the first in East Lansing and the most recent in Evanston, snapping a five-game losing streak when playing at the Wildcats’ stadium. 

The Spartan’s most recent win against Northwestern did come with some heavy support from players who are no longer on the roster – Matilda Ekh and Kamaria McDaniel – but the current lineup still had some standout performances, such as graduate guard Julia Ayrault, who led the game in rebounds with 10.

The team will also have more support from players like graduate forward Tory Ozment, who was a big help in keeping it close in the loss to the Buckeyes on Sunday after she finished the game with 18 points. 

Northwestern currently sits three spots below Michigan State in the Big Ten standings, so this game will be just as important for both teams. One team is trying to stay alive in the conference and the other is trying to get within the top five in the conference. Overall, Northwestern stands at 7-10 on the season after facing a rough 93-52 loss to Illinois on Sunday, Jan. 14. 

The Wildcat’s head coach Joe McKeown is in his 16th year with the Wildcats and although his team currently holds a negative record, McKeown is currently ranked fourth among active Big Ten coaches in wins and is very capable of turning any game into a close matchup. 

After the loss to the Buckeyes, Michigan State head coach Robyn Fralick talked about how the team had a good defensive effort to start the game and that it was really the offense and the unity of the team that needed to come together at the end. 

While MSU should not overlook the Wildcats, they should use the opportunity to work on their offensive sets in facing the worst defensively ranked team. The Wildcats have let up a total of 1,373 points and teams are averaging about 80.8 points against their defense. 

This is a favorable matchup for the Spartans who are the No. 2 ranked offense in the Big Ten and the No. 2 ranked team in marginal difference against opponents. Michigan State does sit near the middle of the pack on defense at the No. 8 spot, but the Wildcats also have the second-worst (No. 13) ranked offense. 

Tip-off for the matchup between the Spartans and the Wildcats is set for Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Breslin Center. The matchup between the two Big Ten teams will also be streamed on Big Ten Plus. 

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