The No. 8-seeded Michigan State Spartans took down the No. 9-seeded Purdue Boilermakers before falling to the No. 1 seed Ohio State Buckeyes Friday in the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament. With that loss yesterday, the season of a shorthanded roster came to an end with MSU’s final record at 15-15 overall and 8-9 in the Big Ten. There are still some projections that suggest the team could earn a bid to the NIT, however. Should that occur, we will be sure to let fans know.
The Spartans opened the conference tournament on Thursday against Purdue and avenged a regular season loss. Michigan State outscored Purdue in three of the four quarters, holding on for a 73-69 victory to advance to the quarterfinals. It marked the third time in the past four seasons that MSU has advanced to the quarterfinals in the Big Ten Tournament.
Four Spartans ended the game in double figures scoring, with senior Nia Clouden leading all scorers with 23 points, with 10 of Clouden’s points coming from the free-throw line. Junior forward Taiyier Parks scored 12 points, marking her second-straight game with 12. Senior forward Alisia Smith scored 15 points while freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh added 10 points. Ekh had managed just two points in each of the past two games before Thursday’s contest against Purdue.
Michigan State jumped out to an early 8-2 lead, powered by four-straight made field goals. Purdue managed a 7-0 run in response, helped by six points from free throws to take a 13-11 lead. The Spartans hunkered down and retook the lead at 18-16 with just under three minutes left. Clouden would finish the first quarter with 11 points and a narrow 23-22 lead by the Spartans.
MSU took advantage of an early scoring drought by Purdue in the second quarter to open up its lead to 28-24. Clouden picked up a third foul with 6:28 left in the period, however, and headed for the bench. Ekh would fill the void with seven points, but both teams struggled on offense in this quarter. Michigan State managed to squeeze out a 15-12 scoring advantage in the period, though, and headed into the locker room up 38-34.
Guess who's back!!! Matilda for threeeeee! pic.twitter.com/bDkzC8xTva— Michigan State Women's Basketball (@MSU_WBasketball) March 3, 2022
Foul trouble continued to mount for Michigan State in the third quarter with multiple players reaching three or more fouls in the third quarter. The Spartans also hit a scoring drought of over three minutes that saw Purdue take a narrow 52-51 lead at one point. However, Parks ended the drought and Smith scored seven of MSU’s 15 points in the quarter, including the first six.
The Spartans took a 62-57 lead at the midway point of the fourth quarter before Purdue mounted a 6-0 run to make it a one-point game, leading 63-62 with 3:26 to go. MSU responded with a 7-0 run of its own and put the game out of reach.
The win set up a rematch with No. 1 seed Ohio State on Friday.
Ohio State Recap
After falling to No. 17 Ohio State on senior day last Sunday, the Spartans fell short in the quarterfinals rematch of the Big Ten Tournament, losing 74-58 to the No. 1 -seeded Buckeyes. MSU fell by double-digits in the end, despite trimming it to a six-point game in the fourth quarter.
Ekh led all scorers in the game with 21 points along with seven rebounds, falling just short of her career-high of eight boards. Clouden, in what might have been her final game in a Spartan uniform pending an appearance in the NIT (or decision to return next season via COVID waiver), had just seven points, but led the team with eight assists and added six rebounds. Clouden’s career at Michigan State will (likely) end with 1,882 points and 449 assists.
The two teams started the game going a combined 0-for-9 from the field before OSU would make four-straight to seize an early 10-4 lead. After the first media timeout, Ohio State would go on to open up a double digit-lead of 16-6 and close out the quarter on a 6-0 run to extend it to 22-8.
Michigan State continued to try and fight back. The Spartans were only outscored 22-21 in the second quarter, but unable to find an answer for Ohio State’s Taylor Mikesell’s 13 points in the first half. MSU headed to the locker room trailing 44-29.
Michigan State rallied strong coming out of the locker room, scoring the eight of the first 12 points in the third. The Spartans trimmed the deficit to 48-37 and kept the Buckeyes scoreless for almost three minutes. Later in the period, a Parks free throw cut it to single-digits for the first time since 3:13 in the first quarter. Ekh alone scored 11 points in the third quarter, while Ohio State managed just 13 as a team.
Michigan State was able to continue to trim the deficit, thanks to poor shooting by the Buckeyes. OSU opened the period going 1-for-8 from the floor and that allowed MSU to cut the lead to just six points. Ohio State finally found its offensive footing, though, and went on a 10-0 run with just under a minute left to leave with the win.
Michigan State’s 43.8 percent shooting from three-point range was the team’s best mark in the last five outings, while Ekh notched her fifth 20-plus point performance on the season. MSU moved to 25-26 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament with a 14-8 mark in the semifinals. The Spartans fell to 8-2 all-time against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, last winning in 2016.