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MSU women's basketball bounce back from losing streak with 70-66 win over Michigan

February 18, 2024
The Michigan State University women's basketball team takes on University of Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Feb. 18, 2024. The Michigan State team is looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the rival Wolverines.
The Michigan State University women's basketball team takes on University of Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Feb. 18, 2024. The Michigan State team is looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the rival Wolverines. —
Photo by Brendan Mullin | The State News

After an 86-71 loss to Ohio State last Sunday and a 94-91 loss against Indiana the game prior, the Michigan State women's basketball team defeated its in-state rival 70-66 in an intense defensive battle inside the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Sunday, Feb. 18.

This game was an important one to the Spartans for more than just rivalry reasons, as they recently dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season after losing two close games to Ohio State and Indiana. 

The Crisler Center was full of both MSU and Michigan fans: the home crowd broke into "Go Blue" chants and the traveling Spartan fans retaliated with "Go Green" chants before the tip-off. 

Spartan guard Julia Ayrault won the tip-off for MSU and right from the start, junior guard/forward Jocelyn Tate got physical with a strong drive to the basket and got the Spartans on the board first. 

While the Spartans did strike first, it was the Wolverines who took charge early on, as they hit three three-pointers within the first few minutes of the quarter. Sophomore guard Abbey Kimball responded with a quick three of her own, but the quick firing by the Wolverines left the Spartans in a deficit early on.

Midway through the first quarter, the Wolverines stayed hot from the perimeter as they went a perfect 4-4 from deep early in the game. The Spartans had hit a couple from deep, but the difference in three-pointers was nearly the difference in points as the Spartans were down seven points with 2:30 left in the first.

Following a late timeout, the Spartans decided to move the ball away from the three-point line and start trying to find more space inside the paint. This ultimately helped the Spartans cut the lead to just two points as they headed into the second quarter. 

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The Michigan State University women's basketball team takes on University of Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Feb. 18, 2024. The Michigan State team is looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the rival Wolverines.

Coming into the second quarter, the Spartans had upped the ante on the defensive side of the ball as they forced multiple turnovers late in the first half. The defensive effort turned into offense as the Spartans took the lead for the first time after a Tory Ozment three-pointer. 

While Michigan held a clear advantage from the three-point line in the first quarter, the Spartans quickly evened it out after hitting three three-pointers while the Wolverines struggled after a hot start from deep. 

After gaining their first lead in the game, the Spartans held control for the majority of the second quarter as they held the Wolverines to a nine-point quarter. Compared to their first half, the Spartans shooting percentages had a huge increase as they went 50% from the field and 50% from three-point range to gain a 5-point lead with a score of 35-30 heading into halftime. 

The momentum started on the Michigan side of things at the start of the third quarter as the Wolverines started the quarter with an 11-0 run to reclaim their lead for the fourth time this game. 

The Spartan offense looked much different than it did at the end of the second as they missed on multiple scoring opportunities. The same could be said for the Spartans' defensive effort as it looked non-existent compared to their first half defense.

The Wolverines had been playing better basketball for most of the third quarter, but, with three minutes left, Michigan State once again found the energy the team had in the second quarter and went on a run on both sides of the ball. 

However, when it mattered the most, the Spartans were able to turn up the defensive pressure at just the right time. With fewer than two minutes left in the third quarter, the Spartans broke out their infamous full-court press which resulted in four straight turnovers from the Wolverines. 

The Spartans capitalized on the turnovers and reclaimed their lead heading into the fourth after struggling early in the second half; the Spartans were now ahead 56-50 at the end of the third quarter.

Once again, the Wolverines got on top of things first in the fourth quarter with back-to-back scoring possessions, while the Spartans struggled against a top-ranked Michigan defense. 

That was until Ayrault, who had been having a quiet game until this point, scored six straight points for the Spartans when they needed it most. The Spartan guard found herself as one of the only available options with the suffocating Michigan defense, and she delivered multiple times. 

With the help of Ayrault, the Spartans were able to build a near double-digit lead as they approached the halfway mark of the final quarter. However, the intensity of this matchup was not going to calm as the Michigan defense and offense continued to stay in it. 

The intensity boiled over a bit with two-and-a-half minutes left to go in the game as Tate was assessed a technical foul along with fouling out, which sent the Crisler Center into an eruption. To make matters worse for the Spartans, not even fifteen seconds later, Ayrault received her fifth foul and was sent to the bench as well.

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The Michigan State University women's basketball team takes on the University of Michigan at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Feb. 18, 2024. The Michigan State team is looking to snap a two-game losing streak against the rival Wolverines.

After the technical foul shots and the additional free throws for the fouls called, the Wolverines found themselves down just two points with two minutes left.

The Spartans continued to fend off the Wolverine offense, even without two of their main players, but the game remained a one-possession game. 

But, after stopping the Michigan offense while short-handed, graduate student guard Moira Joiner knocked down a dagger mid-range, with just 10 seconds left in the game, which silenced the home fans of Crisler Center. 

Michigan would have one more opportunity to try and tie or regain the lead but fell just short as the Michigan State Spartans pulled off the season sweep over their in-state rivals Michigan for the first time since 2019.

The Spartans will take a couple of days off before heading out to West Lafayette, Indiana, to face off against Purdue on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. at Mackey Complex. The game will also be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

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