Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Michigan State women's basketball grabs 20th victory of the season with win over Rutgers

February 25, 2024
Junior guard DeeDee Hagemann (0) dribbles down the court during a game against Northwestern at the Breslin Center on Jan. 17, 2024.  The Spartans took home a win against the Wildcats with a score of 91-72.
Junior guard DeeDee Hagemann (0) dribbles down the court during a game against Northwestern at the Breslin Center on Jan. 17, 2024. The Spartans took home a win against the Wildcats with a score of 91-72. —
Photo by Alexis Schmidt | The State News

Michigan State women’s basketball collected its third straight victory after defeating the Rutgers Scarlet Knights for the second time this season by a score of 93-57. The win, which took place on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Breslin Center, moved the Spartans up to an overall record of 20-7 and a conference record of 10-6.

The game started off slow for the Spartans as Rutgers went on an early 8-0 scoring run and took a 12-11 lead midway through the first quarter. However, this was quickly broken by Michigan State's excellent three-point display, specifically graduate guard Moira Joiner, who started off with a perfect 6-6 from beyond the arc. Joiner finished the first half with 20 points and ended the game shooting 73% from the field, finishing with a team leading 22 points. 

Along with Joiner's impressive performance beyond the arc, sophomore guard Abbey Kimball was also on fire from downtown as she shot 80% from three-point range and finished with 17 points.

It was the excellent shooting displays beyond the arc that was one of the reasons the Spartans took control during the first quarter, as they went into the second quarter leading 27-15. 

The team combined for a grand total of 14 made three-pointers and even sank their 253rd three-pointer of the season, setting a new program record for three-pointers in a season. Head coach Robyn Fralick said this was all possible because of the team's decision making and awareness to take "good shots." 

"We shot the ball really well, but a big part of that is we took good shots," Fralick said. "They were rhythm shots by good shooters, and I thought we just got off to a great start with that. A big part of it is how we play. It's in our style. It's in our system."

Fralick also commented on the consistent improvement from many members of the team. "We really think the three-ball is a really important shot in the game of basketball, and we have a lot of kids who are very capable of making them," Fralick said.

"We've had a lot of kids really step up and I'm proud because, if you look at the numbers, there's a number of kids well across the board that are all just shooting the ball better now."

It was during the second quarter where the Spartans began to click, going on a long 21-0 run and stomping the Scarlet Knights on every facet of the court. While almost everyone was on fire from the three-point range, the girls in the paint also got the job done. Graduate guard Julia Ayrault tallied 17 points and six rebounds, while junior forward Jocelyn Tate had nine points and a team leading seven rebounds. 

Defensively, the Spartans didn’t take their foot off the pedal when it came to pressing the Scarlet Knights, as the Red and Black couldn’t handle Fralick and Michigan State's defensive scheme. Both Tate and junior guard DeeDee Hagemann combined for five forced turnovers and brought the defensive energy to the floor.

Fralick gave the team a lot of credit for how they played defensively and hopes that, in the future, successes like this continue. 

"I think we're getting better defensively, and that’s necessary, especially if you want to be an effective team," Fralick said. "You have to be multi-dimensional, and you have to play both sides of the ball, especially in this league. You know, if you're just one way or the other, it's typically not good enough night in and night out. So we're working on it, and we've talked a lot about it."

By halftime, the Spartans possessed a 51-27 lead, but this game still seemed far from over. However, the Spartans didn’t hesitate coming out of the locker room, and evaporated any doubts about blowing the lead as they kept pushing and went on a 14-0 run to begin the second half. Fralick and the Spartans didn’t want to lose momentum in the third quarter, especially given that they’ve been subject to it in the past. 

"Well, at the half I challenged them because we've had some third quarters where we've sputtered," Fralick said. "We’ve had leads before, and then we come out in the third quarter and we've lost some momentum, so I challenged them. We have to find a way to win the quarter, and that just feels like a big growth area for us right now. In terms of today, I mean wow, we started that third quarter and really, really set the tone and did a great job."

By the closing seconds of the third quarter, the Spartans, due to their sticky man-to-man defense and their great shot percentage, were up by 43 points. They outscored Rutgers 27-8 in the third quarter alone.

Going into the fourth and final quarter, the game seemed out of reach for the Scarlet Knights, and that it was, as the Spartans never gave Rutgers the hope of a comeback, winning the game 93-57. 

By the end of the game, the Spartans lead the way in almost every category. MSU shot 55% from the field while Rutgers only shot 38%. The Spartans led in rebounds with 34, had more bench points with 19, more steals with 12, fewer turnovers with 13 and more assists with 27.

One thing that stood out to Fralick the most throughout this game was the team's ability to move the ball around, and she was proud of her team for doing so. 

"When we’re sharing the ball and when we’re high assisting, we typically have scored a lot," Fralick said. "I love basketball because it is the ultimate team game, and when passing becomes cool on a team, sharing the ball becomes cool, and finding a way to get the best shot becomes part of how everybody plays, it's just really fun."

The Spartans will take a few days off before playing the University of Illinois Fighting Illini on Thursday, Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. at the Breslin Center, as they look to win their fourth straight. Streaming will be available on Big Ten Network.

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After the Illinois game, the Spartans will travel to the Kohl Center where they will play the Wisconsin Badgers in the last regular season game of the season on March 3.  


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