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Michigan State Women’s Basketball Roundup: Spartans got off to a nice start, but have cooled off slightly

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 05 Women’s Michigan State at Florida State Photo by David Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Obviously, football and men’s basketball content makes up the majority of stories published on this Michigan State Spartans website, but it’s time to give the women their due as well. Let’s recap how the Spartans have fared so far in the 2019-2020 season.

Suzy Merchant is in now in her 13th season as head coach for Michigan State. Through eight games, MSU is off to a solid 6-2 start. However, the team started 5-0 and has now dropped two of its last three games. Here are the results thus far:

  • Game 1 — Nov. 5 vs. Eastern Michigan — won 85-45
  • Game 2 — Nov. 8 vs. Detroit Mercy — won 110-52
  • Game 3 — Nov. 14 at Notre Dame — won 72-69
  • Game 4 — Nov. 19 vs. Oakland — won 76-56
  • Game 5 — Nov. 24 vs. Hartford — won 79-34
  • Game 6 — Nov. 29 vs. LSU (Junkanoo Jam in Bahamas) — lost 56-58
  • Game 7 — Nov. 30 vs. Kansas State (Junkanoo Jam in Bahamas) — won 65-60
  • Game 8 — Dec. 5 at Florida State (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)— lost 68-78

The Spartans are 4-0 at the Breslin center, 1-1 in true road games (including a win over at the time No. 15 Notre Dame) and 1-1 in neutral site games (both taking place in Bimini, Bahamas).

The team is averaging an impressive 76.4 points per game, while holding opponents to just 57.1 points per game. MSU is shooting 40.6 percent from the floor, 31.3 percent from three-point range and 64.2 percent from the free throw line. Ideally, Merchant and the team would love to see all of those percentages go up, especially from the charity stripe. Defensively, the Spartans are holding the competition to 35.9 percent shooting overall, including just 21 percent from three (first in the Big Ten and sixth nationally). Opponents are shooting 63.9 percent from the free throw line.

In terms of rebounding, the women are the best team on the glass in the Big Ten at 43.3 boards per game, and rank second in the conference in rebound margin (opponents are grabbing 37 rebounds per game, for a margin of plus-6.3). The ladies are also masters in the art of stealing the ball, ranking first in the conference and seventh nationally with 14 steals per game. MSU ranks toward the middle of the pack in the conference in terms assists per game (15.4) and ranks just 10th in the Big Ten in blocks per game (3.6).

Individually, sophomore guard Nia Clouden leads MSU with 16.3 points per game, three rebounds per game and just under three assists per game, along with 23 total steals this season (nearly three per game!). Senior guard Taryn McCutcheon averages 11.6 points per contest, with 4.6 rebounds and 3.125 assists per game as well. Senior guard Shay Colley has missed four games, but is averaging just under 10 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Freshman guard Julia Ayrault is your leading rebounder with 39 total on the season (4.9 per game).

As mentioned, after a hot start, Michigan State has lost two of its past three games. The two losses both came to opponents who are currently ranked in the AP top-25 against LSU (No. 25) and Florida State (No. 8). Florida State is undefeated at 8-0, while LSU is 7-1 with its only loss coming via FSU. So, if there is such a thing, these will look like “quality losses” on MSU’s tournament resume when the time comes.

The women’s team now has a 10-day hiatus before the next game against Morehead State at home. Following that, the Spartans will participate in the Sunshine Challenge in Orlando, Florida with matchups against Syracuse and West Virginia on the docket.