Tuesday, June 25, 2024

MSU women's basketball falls to UNC 59-56 in nail-biting finish, out of March Madness after first round

March 22, 2024
<p>The Michigan State Women’s Basketball Team falls to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels 56-59, during the first round of March Madness at the Colonial Life Arena in South Carolina on March 22, 2024. Their 2023-2024 season comes to an end.</p>

The Michigan State Women’s Basketball Team falls to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels 56-59, during the first round of March Madness at the Colonial Life Arena in South Carolina on March 22, 2024. Their 2023-2024 season comes to an end.

The Michigan State women's basketball team, making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2021, began March Madness with a battle against a University of North Carolina team in its fourth straight tournament appearance. Fighting until the very end, the Spartans came up just short and were ultimately defeated 59-56 in the first round of the tournament, sending head coach Robyn Fralick and the rest of the Spartans home to East Lansing.

In her first year as the head coach of the program, Fralick has found a solid starting lineup and once again relied on her core players on the biggest stage of the year. 

While the Spartans failed to win the tip off, they were able to force the Tar Heels to back-to-back stops early on, although North Carolina would eventually be the first on the scoreboard in the game.

The Tar Heels are much taller than the Spartans, with five players over 6-foot-3-inches. It was clear that UNC devised a plan to attack the Spartans on the inside and play to its size advantage. 

Head coach Fralick decided to get aggressive early on defensively, operating a full-court press, in order to take away some of the scoring opportunities for the Tar Heels. 

At first, the press had minimal results as the Tar Heels went on a 6-0 run late in the quarter, but the press would ultimately tire out the UNC offense in the final minute of the quarter. Heading into the second quarter, the Spartans were only down 23-10 in what was a dominating performance by North Carolina.

The Spartans revamped their energy in the second quarter, forcing back-to-back turnovers and sparking a 5-0 run to bring Michigan State within seven points, shortly after being down 16 points earlier in the first. 

Graduate guard Moira Joiner got into early foul trouble in the second quarter with three personal fouls, forcing Fralick to take her out. However, after some time on the bench, Joiner came back out to push the Michigan State offense to try and minimize the Tar Heel's lead.

However, even with the veteran guard coming back in almost immediately, Michigan State's offense started to fall behind once again. Halfway through the second quarter, the Spartans found themselves trailing 30-16. 

Michigan State would eventually regather itself and go on an 8-0 run to close out the quarter, only down 35-27. It became clear as the Spartans went to the locker room that their offense wasn’t the issue, it was their defense. 

Coming out of the half, the Spartans quickly reciprocated that message, increasing the intensity on the defensive side, resulting in the Tar Heels only scoring four points in five minutes. However, the Spartans also struggled to score, which left both teams only combining for seven points in a five-minute period.

The Spartans quickly picked up their offensive pace in the latter half of the third quarter, but the Tar Heels planned to do the same. Unlike the rest of the game, the Spartans were finally beginning to click on both sides of the ball, as the they began to take away North Carolina's inside scoring.

Like they had all game, after letting the Tar Heels pull away the Spartans would dig themselves right back into it, and at the end of the third, the Spartans found themselves only down nine points heading into the final quarter. 

Although the Spartans still found issues in negating the Tar Heels' paint presence, they continued to push through it late in the game. Every time North Carolina scored a basket, Michigan State did, too.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans had brought it all the way back to a single-digit lead for the Tar Heels as the Green and White refused to let this game go. With five seconds left, the Tar Heels got two different opportunities to ice the game from the free-throw line. 

In two separate attempts at the line, the Tar Heels missed the second free throw, but both times the Spartans were unable to get a rebound, resulting in the Tar Heels running out the clock and defeating the Spartans 59-56.

With the loss, Michigan State women's basketball team's season is now officially over, but the team has a lot to look forward to. Although the team will lose a couple of key players, Fralick has now set the bar for what this Spartan team is capable of. 

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Discussion

Share and discuss “MSU women's basketball falls to UNC 59-56 in nail-biting finish, out of March Madness after first round” on social media.