The Michigan State Spartans women’s basketball team picked up a big win on Thursday at home in the Breslin Center over the previously unbeaten Nebraska Cornhuskers. The win moves MSU to 8-6 (2-1 Big Ten) on the season and Nebraska to 12-1 (1-1).
The Spartans had to pull off the win shorthanded with a roster of just nine players. In addition to preseason injuries and the transfer of Alyza Winston earlier this month, freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann and graduate student guard Laurel Jacqmain were out due to COVID-19 and junior guard Moira Joiner was out due to concussion protocol.
Senior guard Nia Clouden finished the game with 32 points, marking her 14th game in double-figures this season (a team-high) and ninth game of 20-plus points. Clouden also moved to No. 7 all-time in Spartan scoring history with 1,596 points, passing Maxann Reese (1996-2000) with 1,589 points and Kris Emerson (1983-1987) with 1,590 points. She stands 53 points behind tying Allyssa DeHaan (2006-2010) at No. 6. Clouden also moved to No. 8 all-time in career assists with 387, with her team-leading six assists yesterday moving her past Eileen Shea (382) and Kim Archer (381) on the all-time leader board at MSU. Clouden also went 15-for-17 from the free-throw line, tying her career-high and the MSU record set by Clouden and Aerial Powers (Clouden went 15-for-17 against Florida Gulf Coast last week).
Freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh was second on the team in scoring with 12 points, while junior forward Taiyier Parks and graduate student forward Alisia Smith both scored 10 points to round out players in double-figures for Michigan State. Parks led the team in rebounds (12) and steals (three), while Ekh led the team in minutes (39). All five starters for MSU played 29 or more minutes, including Clouden’s 36 despite foul trouble.
Early on it was two players to carry the Spartans in this one, though. Clouden and Smith scored 18 of Michigan State’s 20 first quarter points to help fill the void on the roster. Nebraska got off to a poor start shooting, a theme that would continue throughout the game. UNL went just 1-for-7 from the field to start and fell behind early, after managing to tie the game up at 4-4 at the 8:02 mark. However, Michigan State went on a run to open the lead up 11-4 at one point. The Spartans would close out the first quarter up 20-16.
The second quarter opened with a bang for the visitors as Nebraska’s Ashley Scoggin hit back-to-back three-pointers barely 30 seconds into the period to take a brief 22-20 lead. Clouden tied it up around a minute and a half later in game action at 22, pushing the Spartans back into the lead with the extra free throw after being fouled on her jumper.
Just 14 seconds later, Jaz Shelley would give the Huskers the lead back with a jumper to make it 24-23, but that was the final time in the game the Spartans would not be leading. Ekh hit a jumper with 5:02 left in the half and Michigan State never looked back in terms of leading the Cornhuskers. Michigan State closed out the half strong, going on a 12-0 run at one point, and taking a 37-26 lead into the locker room.
Despite scoring first and stretching its lead to 13, the third quarter forced Michigan State to play without its superstar as Nebraska targeted Clouden on MSU’s defensive end and caused her to pick up three fouls quickly, the final one coming with 4:23 left in the quarter. The Huskers took advantage of her absence and cut into Michigan State’s lead late, at one point getting within three on a Shelley three-point attempt with 1:14 to go. The Huskers outscored Michigan State 22-18 in the third quarter, and would also outscore MSU again 21-17 in the fourth quarter as well.
Despite being outscored, the Spartans never trailed in the fourth. The Huskers refused to go away, though, cutting the game to within two points five times in the final period. Sam Haiby scored eight of her team-leading 19 points in the fourth quarter alone for Nebraska. However, despite Nebraska fans’ complaints of a blocking foul to the contrary, Clouden drew an offensive charging foul on Haiby with 53 seconds remaining, and responded with a jumper to keep the game out of reach.
Scoggin hit a three-pointer to again cut it to just two with 20 seconds remaining. Michigan State was able to inbound the ball after a timeout and Ekh drew the foul. After missing her first attempt, she hit her second to give the Spartans a three-point lead. Nebraska tried valiantly to respond with the 19 seconds left but a strong defensive effort by Michigan State forced two wild three-point attempts that fell far from the mark.
The Spartans had a valiant effort by such a shorthanded group on the day. Despite foul trouble for Clouden and heavy minutes for the starters, MSU outrebounded Nebraska 45-38 and managed 12 points off fast breaks. Nebraska managed 20 points off of 13 Spartan turnovers, though, and scored 25 fast break points. Regardless, it was the Green and White that managed to send the visitors packing with the Cornhuskers’ first loss of the season in the lone regular season matchup between these two teams. Michigan State moves to 5-9 all-time against the Huskers with the win as well.
The Spartan women next return to the road to take on Northwestern on Monday, Jan. 3 at 8 p.m. ET. with the game airing on B1G+.
Suzy Merchant’s Post Game Remarks
Nia Clouden’s Post Game Remarks
Alisia Smith’s Post Game Remarks
Alyza Winston heading to “other” MSU
Former Spartan point guard Alyza Winston has followed in the footsteps of former men’s point guard Rocket Watts and will be heading to Starksville, Mississippi. Winston is reportedly transferring to Mississippi State after leaving the Spartans and entering the transfer portal following the loss at Iowa earlier this month.