The No. 10-seeded Spartans went into the Alamo Dome today and gave a far greater fight than the 2003 version of the Michigan State football team did against a Big 12 opponent, but still fell 79-75 despite a furious late rally. The Spartans’ season ends with an overall record of 15-9, while Iowa State will move onto the second round matchup on Wednesday evening.
Michigan State kept it close in the first quarter through to the media timeout with 4:58 remining. Iowa State was unable to pull away at any point, and the Spartans trailed just 12-11. Coming out of the timeout, MSU was even able to briefly seize the lead on a layup by Taiyier Parks at the 3:16 mark, and she hit an and-one to push the lead to 14-12 for MSU.
Then ISU went on an 11-2 run that forced a Spartan timeout with 1:38 to go. An Alyza Winston jumper off a Janai Crooms assist with just 0:01 left in the quarter brought MSU within six, down 26-20 at the end of the first.
The Spartans continued their climb back at the start of the second quarter, building on the 4-1 run with a 7-0 run to open the period and seize a narrow 27-26 lead with 7:16 left off a jumper by Alisia Smith with another Crooms assist. Winston was whistled for a shooting foul on the other end the next possession that allowed Iowa State’s Madison Wise to take the lead back after she hit both her free throws.
The Spartans refused to go quietly, though, as Tory Ozment hit a three-pointer off an assist by Nia Clouden to take back the lead 30-28 with 6:38 to go. It would be the final lead for the Spartans of the night. Iowa State would finish the half up 45-39.
Turnovers proved problematic for Michigan State as the Spartans would finish the half with five, and the Cyclones managed eight points off them. In comparison, ISU finished the half with seven turnovers, but the Spartans managed just six points.
Turnovers continued to plague MSU in the third quarter as the Spartans coughed it up four times in under three minutes. The Cyclones took advantage and jumped out to a 56-47 lead. ISU hit a pair of free throws with 1:38 left in the third to stretch the lead to 60-50. The Spartans refused to go quietly, though, and clawed back to make it just 63-56 to end the quarter.
Michigan State kept up the pressure as it burst out to score nine of the first 11 points in the fourth quarter to tie it at 63 off a clutch three-pointer by Moira Joiner with 7:29 to go. Iowa State was able to answer and stretch the lead back out to as large as seven, though. MSU just refused to go quietly, though, as later Clouden brought it back within four on a free throw with 3:16 left.
However, Iowa State’s Ashley Joens clinched an and-one on a layup that, frankly, looked like a bad call against MSU’s Joiner. What should have been a no-call basketball play instead resulted in Joiner suffering a vicious head hit against the floor on her fall and Joiner had to be helped off the court by the team’s trainer and head coach Suzy Merchant. Joens proceeded to hit the free throw to stretch the Cyclones’ lead to 73-68.
MSU continued to fight to the end and made it just a one-point game off a layup by Winston with just 28 seconds left, trailing 76-75. The Spartans had to result to fouls, though, and a missed three-pointer by MSU and the Cyclones hitting all three of their shots from the charity stripe in the final moments of the game left the final score 79-75.
Clouden led the Spartans in scoring with 16 points, while adding six rebounds. Winston was the only other player to break double figures with 11 points. Parks fell just short of a double-double while leading the team on the glass with nine points and 11 rebounds. Ozment also fell just shy with nine points and nine rebounds, while leading the team with two steals. Crooms led the team with four assists, and Julia Ayrault led the team with two blocks.
All-American Ashley Joens for Iowa State led all scorers with 33 points, while Madison Wise had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The loss marks just the third time in her 10 NCAA Tournament appearances that Suzy Merchant has failed to advance out of the first round. As for this season, the loss to Iowa State marks the fifth of MSU’s nine total losses on the season that came to just six points or fewer. A mostly young team with a great infusion of talent incoming this next season should be able to build on the bad luck plagued season (no pun, but very much intentional word choice) with greater hope for next year.