After trialing for most of the game, the Michigan State Spartans women’s basketball team managed to come from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the Minnesota Golden Gophers by a final score of 74-71 on Sunday at the Breslin Center. Senior guard Nia Clouden and freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh combined for 48 points in MSU’s victory.
The win marked the second-straight victory for the short-handed Spartans. Michigan State moved to 10-8 on the season and improved to 4-3 in Big Ten play. The loss sent Minnesota to 9-11 overall and 2-6 in league play.
Three players for the Spartans hit double figures in scoring. Clouden led the way with 25 points and five assists. She also added five rebounds and two steals. Ekh had her third 20-plus-point game of the season with 23 points and added a career high six assists.
Junior forward Taiyier Parks was the other player in double figures, marking her fifth-straight game to do so. Parks added 11 points and two blocks. Senior forward Alisia Smith and graduate forward Tamara Farquhar led the way down low off of the glass with 10 and 11 rebounds, respectively.
Sarah Scalia led Minnesota with a game-high 31 points.
Minnesota took advantage of an almost three-minute scoring drought in the first quarter to push the early lead out to 11-8 for the Gophers. The Spartans snapped the drought with back-to-back baskets by Parks to take the lead 12-11, however. The Gophers went on a 6-0 run in response and kept the lead until the fourth quarter.
Minnesota pushed the lead out to 23-16 in the second quarter, what would prove the high-water mark for either team. However, despite MSU’s struggles on offense during the quarter, shooting just 31 percent in the first half overall, a buzzer-beater for the second-straight game to end the half by Ekh cut Minnesota’s lead to just 34-30 heading into the locker room.
Michigan State managed to tie the game at 36 in the third quarter, off of a three-pointer by Clouden barely a minute into the period. Minnesota went on a 7-0 run to take a 45-38 lead with 5:33 left in the quarter. Parks managed to tie the game up at 52 with just under a minute left in the third quarter, but the Gophers scored one more basket to open the final period with the lead at 54-52.
Clouden started the fourth quarter off for both teams with the first eight points of the period, giving Michigan State a 60-55 lead. Minnesota responded with its own 8-0 run, but fouls and free throws were the name of the game for most of the remaining time left. MSU went 10-for-14 from the free-throw line in the final quarter, and the team never let up the lead from the 5:07 mark onward.
Suzy Merchant’s Post Game Remarks
“We gave up way too many offensive rebounds,” Merchant said. “We just, our guards aren’t pursuing the ball at all especially on long shots. They kind of just stand there and so those are loose balls and if you don’t go get it the other team is going to. So we just have to continue to get better at that...Trust me, every huddle, every break that’s all we talked about was we have to peruse the ball, we have to box out but we have to go get it. Credit them, I thought a lot of things went their way. A lot of balls that we should have got, fumbled it, ended up in the jump ball, they ended up getting the ball back. We have to create our own breaks and to me that was very disappointing for sure.”
Nia Clouden’s Post Game Remarks
Matilda Ekh’s Post Game Remarks
Ekh Named Big Ten Freshman of the Week, Clouden earns Honor Roll honors
Freshman Matilda Ekh earned her second and the team’s third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors on the season on Monday after her performance against Minnesota on Sunday.
The Västerås, Sweden native scored 23 points and dished a career-high six assists. She is tied with Clouden for most 20-plus point games by a Spartan freshman since 2018-2019. Clouden had three games that season of 20-plus points.
Freshman point guard DeeDee Hagemann also earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors on Nov. 15. Ekh garnered the honors on Dec. 31 as well. The award marks the 11th time a Michigan State player has earned the accolades from the Big Ten office.
Clouden was also named to the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Honor Roll this week.
Michigan State is on the road this week for the next two games on the schedule. The Spartans are in Happy Valley Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. EST to take on Penn State. The game will stream on B1G+. The matchup was bumped from the Big Ten Network earlier today and moved up one hour on the start time after the Wisconsin at Nebraska women’s game was moved to the same start time and moved to the Big Ten Network to accommodate the same matchup on the men’s side in Lincoln at 5 p.m. EST. Both Husker teams have been off for an extended period due to COVID-19 outbreaks among both rosters.
MSU will conclude the road stand on Sunday, Jan. 30 at Rutgers with the game scheduled for 2 p.m. EST and also streaming on B1G+.