Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Spartans defeat the Terrapins in a nail-biter, get first win of new year

January 9, 2024
Michigan State University graduate guard Moria Joiner (22) prepares to shoot a free-throw during a game against Nebraska at the Breslin Center on Dec. 9, 2023. The Spartans lost to the Cornhuskers 74-80.
Michigan State University graduate guard Moria Joiner (22) prepares to shoot a free-throw during a game against Nebraska at the Breslin Center on Dec. 9, 2023. The Spartans lost to the Cornhuskers 74-80.

After starting the new year with a heartbreaking loss to University of Iowa, the Michigan State women’s basketball team redeemed itself in a back-and-forth battle that they would ultimately win 74-69 over Maryland.

Heading into the game, the Spartans were looking to even out their Big Ten record after falling to Nebraska in 2023 and then to the Hawkeyes last Tuesday. 

Graduate student guard Julia Ayrault won the tip for the Spartans. Although the team wasn’t able to immediately convert, they were able to get comfortable and eventually began moving the ball around. 

Their movement would result in a wide-open layup for Ayrault to get the Spartans on the board first, but the Terrapins would immediately respond. 

Unlike the Spartans – who in the first three minutes started 1-4 from the field and 0-3 from the three-point line – the Terrapins started 2-3 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line to get an early 8-2 lead on the Spartans.

Head coach Robyn Fralick instantly realized that her starting squad was starting to look sluggish, so she decided to bring in one of her star players this season: sophomore guard Theryn Hallock. 

In her first ten seconds on the court, Hallock converted a quick mid-range jumper which helped the offense regain itself after starting the game with multiple empty possessions. Following the Hallock basket, the Spartans went on a 9-0 run where they forced three turnovers and momentarily refused to let up any Terrapin points. 

Unfortunately, it was just for a mere moment that the Spartans held the lead due to a perfectly executed play by Maryland to set up graduate student guard/forward Brinae Alexander for a quarter-ending three-pointer to give the Terrapins the 17-15 lead.

After another sluggish start, the Spartans once again found themselves in a hole and down 15-22 in the second quarter after allowing five straight points from the Terrapins. 

The Spartans are used to getting the jump on teams with their fast-paced offense, but Maryland, which has a similar layout to MSU's team, having many smaller players, uses that same fast-paced offense just as well. 

Just when the Spartans were able to gain some ground, knotting the score at 22-22 with just under four minutes to go in the first half, the Terrapins went on to close out the last three minutes with a 7-0 run to lead the Spartans 29-22 at the break. 

For two teams that are in the top 10 in scoring in the Big Ten, it was a slow performance on offense in the first half. Maryland finished the first half shooting just a mere 39.1% from the field and 25% from the three-point-line. However, the shooting performance was worse for the Spartans as they went into the half shooting just 30% from the field and 13.3% from deep. 

MSU came out in the third quarter more aggressive than they had been in the entirety of the first half. Hagemann, who shot three three-pointers in the first half, used her drive-and-kick play style to get things going as she found Ayrault for an open layup after being double-teamed on the drive. 

Junior guard Jocelyn Tate would follow Hagemann’s role as she took back-to-back possessions straight to the paint, being fouled on one and converting on the other.

Unlike the first half, the Spartans were beginning to find a flow on offense. What started as a slow offensive game for both teams was slowly turning into a back-and-forth for both offenses. 

After a missed layup from Maryland, Joiner once again used the aggressiveness that MSU started with in the second half, but this time she kicked it to a wide-open Hallock in the corner. With her first three of the night, the Breslin erupted with excitement now that the Spartans finally had regained their lead

The final minutes of the third quarter is where the intensity between these two conference teams really began to pick up. MSU attempted to pull away, but Maryland refused to let them get far ahead

Junior guard Shyanne Sellers cut the Spartan lead to just two points after knocking down both of her free-throws to finish the third quarter.

The third quarter was the only quarter where the Spartans outscored the Terrapins (24-14), and yet that only left MSU with a 46-43 lead going into the fourth quarter

Following the free-throws from the Terrapins early in the fourth quarter, Joiner would bring the MSU fans at ease after knocking down a three-pointer to once again retake the lead. However, it wasn’t long before Ayrault sent them into a flurry of cheers again after knocking down another three-pointer.

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With two-and-a-half minutes remaining, Joiner was once again called upon to create some space between the Spartans and the Terrapins and answered with another three-pointer to give the Spartans a seven-point lead

After allowing the Terrapins to bring themselves within three points via the free-throw line, the Spartans needed to once again create a gap in the score. With less than 45 seconds to go in the game, Joiner made a quick pass to Ayrault who put in a layup and gave the Spartans a five-point lead with 28 seconds to go.

The Terrapins had a few chances to try and send the game into overtime, but the Spartan defense prevailed and held them off

After scoring just 22 points in the first half, MSU would go on to score 52 points in the second half to defeat the Terrapins 74-69.

Looking ahead, the Spartans will enjoy the home win for a few days before heading off to face Ohio State University on Sunday, Jan. 14

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