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MSU women's basketball uses defensive stops to hold Michigan off, win 70-66 in away match

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. Michigan State secured a season sweep over their rivals, breaking a two-game losing streak in the process.

Michigan State women’s basketball was able to complete the season with a sweep against its in-state rival, the University of Michigan, on Sunday after defeating the Wolverines 70-66 in a hard-fought and defense-heavy matchup. 

With the win, the Spartans defeated the Wolverines in the 100th matchup between the two teams and Michigan State was able to take its 75th overall win of the rivalry -- a massive feat. 

Throughout the game, one aspect was controlling both teams: defense. The Wolverines are second in the Big Ten conference in defensive ratings as they have consistently held their opponents to under 63.0 points per game. They have also been one of the top teams in not allowing high rebound games from their opponents. 

However, the Spartans were able to survive the defensive effort from the Wolverines and they finished with some of their own individual wins on the defensive side in an abundance of steals and they closed the game out on the defensive end. 

Michigan displayed its defensive prowess early in the game as they held Michigan State to some lower shooting numbers in the first quarter. The Spartans were struggling to find points on the perimeter, and at the same time, Michigan used its defense to create offense and take an early lead. 

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Michigan State junior guard No. 0 DeeDee Hagemann celebrates a score at the Crisler center in Ann Arbor on Feb. 18, 2024. Michigan State secured a season sweep of the rival Wolverines, breaking a two-game losing streak in the process.

While the Spartans were able to stay within close range of the early Michigan lead, they decided to switch their focus to defense in the second quarter, which helped them immensely. 

After turning up the defensive pressure in the second quarter, the Spartans held the Wolverines to a nine-point quarter, the lowest of either team in any quarter of this game, forcing four turnovers and closing an early rebounding gap. 

Once the Spartans got on a roll defensively, multiple transition opportunities began to open up as the Spartans claimed their first lead and held it throughout the second quarter as they finished strong on both defense and offense; Michigan State scored 16 points in the quarter as opposed to Michigan's nine. 

The biggest showing on the defensive side for the Spartans came in the third quarter when Michigan had once again gone on a run and their defense had been stopping the Spartan offense in all facets. Instead of trying to draw up a new game plan on the offensive side, head coach Robyn Fralick decided to break out the full-court press that had shown to be successful earlier in the season. 

Once the Spartans broke out into their full-court press, the Michigan offense began to slip as the Spartans forced four straight turnovers, which allowed them to once again reclaim the lead after Michigan started the quarter with a 13-0 run. 

Coach Fralick felt that Michigan State's aggressiveness during their press was a big help in securing the win.

“Once we got our press set in the game, that really helped us out," Fralick said. "I thought we got really aggressive in it… I felt like we got a lot of momentum and confidence in it."

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Michigan State graduate guard/forward No. 1 Tory Ozment drives the net at the Crisler center in Ann Arbor, Feb. 18, 2024. Michigan State secured a season sweep of the rival Wolverines, breaking a two-game losing streak in the process.

Before the Spartans broke out into the press, the Michigan offense continued to find opportunities for junior guard Laila Phelia and graduate guard Elissa Brett to score. Both guards had been heating up and Fralick knew the team was going to need something extra to slow them down. 

“We needed to crank it up, we needed a little something on our side," Fralick said. "I thought they were executing and we were just a little of out sync on the offensive end."

Graduate guard/forward Tory Ozment finished the game with 16 points, four rebounds and one steal and described how important defensive stops are for the Spartans, especially late in the game.

“(Getting stops) kind of generates offense for us," Ozment said. "Our defense turns into offense so we are able to turn that up and we’re able to get buckets on the other end."

The win marks the first time the Spartans have swept the Wolverines since 2019. In addition to the women’s team completing a sweep, the men’s team also completed a sweep against Michigan just the day before on Saturday, Feb. 17 for the first time since 2019. 

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Michigan State women's basketball players chant, "Victory For MSU," at the Crisler center in Ann Arbor on Feb. 18, 2024. Michigan State secured a season sweep of the rival Wolverines, breaking a two-game losing streak in the process.

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The Michigan State Spartans will return to the hardwood after a couple of days off to face Purdue for the second time this season. The matchup will be played at the Mackey Complex in Ind. on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. The game will also be streamed on Big Ten Plus. 

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