FINAL: Spartans earn victory in conference battle at home over Minnesota, 74-71


MSU guard Deedee Hagemann claps her hands during the Spartans’ 65-46 win over Northwestern on Jan. 15, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Allie Cohen, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING- On Sunday afternoon, the 9-8 Michigan State Spartans faced the Minnesota Golden Gophers, looking to remain above .500 for the season and move up a spot in conference rankings. Both teams played a close game, but the Spartans came out victorious, winning 74-71 after an eventful fourth quarter.

The game started slow, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Matilda Ekh and Nia Clouden pushed the Spartans ahead with 6:55 left in the first quarter. This was the team’s first lead, but it was short lived as the Golden Gophers regained the lead off a 5-0 run. 

Taiyier Parks made the layup that broke MSU’s scoring drought, but the Golden Gophers kept scoring. They went on a 6-0 run with two 3-pointers in a row made by Minnesota guard Sara Scalia. Both teams ended the first quarter with scoring droughts, MSU’s lasting 3:10 and Minnesota’s lasting 2:15. The first quarter ended 17-14, Minnesota. 

The Spartans continued the inaccurate shooting in the second quarter, going 1-for-7 for the first three minutes after the break. The Golden Gophers took advantage, growing their lead with three baskets from Kadi Sissoko and two more 3-pointers by Scalia. 

MSU started coming back after successful shots from Tamara Farquhar, DeeDee Hagemann, Parks and Ekh. This brought the score to 28-25 with 5:07 left in the half. 

MSU forward Isaline Alexander (12) calls for the ball as Tamara Farquhar (2) attempts a jumper in the Spartans’ 65-46 win over Northwestern on Jan. 16, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The Spartans ended the half with five turnovers in the last four minutes, which helped contribute to Scalia’s 19 points on the other end. She led the Golden Gophers in scoring in the half, having shot 5-for-8 behind the arc. The half ended with a 3-point buzzer beater by Ekh, which trimmed the Golden Gophers’ lead to just four points. Ekh led the Spartans in the first half with 11 points and two assists. 

The first half consisted of a combined seven scoring droughts, a problem that needed to be fixed in the second half. The Spartans started playing more aggressive, drawing fouls and scoring. With 8:24 left in the third, Clouden tied the game 38-38 for the first time since the beginning of the first quarter after making a pair of free throws. 

Although they started playing more aggressively, this caused the Spartans to be messy, and turnovers continued to kill MSU, as it gave up five in just over three minutes. This gave Minnesota the perfect opportunity to go on a 7-0 run.  

An assist from Clouden to Ekh for a 3-pointer brought the Spartans back to within one, but then they went back down six points after two more 3-pointers from Scalia. With 50 seconds left on the clock, the Spartans tied it up 52-52 with a layup from Parks, but in the next play, Farquhar fouled Scalia who went on to make both of her free throws. The third quarter ended with the Golden Gophers leading 54-52. 

The first basket made in the fourth quarter was a 3-pointer from Clouden, which gave the Spartans their first lead since the first quarter. Clouden then went on to make two more shots, which gave the Spartans their largest lead of the game, 60-55 with 7:38 left of gameplay. 

MSU guard Nia Clouden shoots a free throw during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Minnesota’s Deja Winters then scored a 3-pointer for the Gophers, which gave them the lead back, 63-62. The lead changes continued to go back and forth, but after free throws were made by Clouden and a layup was made by Alisia Smith, MSU took back the lead 66-63 with 3:33 left to go. 

With one minute remaining, Scalia tied the game 67-67 just after Hagemann had made a free throw. 

With 31 seconds left, Jasmine Powell fouled Clouden, sending her to the line where she made two from the line. Hagemann then went to foul Powell, who made one of two free throws. 

Winters then fouled Ekh, who made one free throw. Scalia missed a layup with 13 seconds to go, and Winters once again fouled Ekh who made both her free throws this time.This brought the Spartans lead to four points, but Winters would make a 3-pointer that brought the score to 72-71, MSU with just one second left on the clock. 

MSU guard Deedee Hagemann dribbles the ball during the Spartans’ 65-46 win over Northwestern on Jan. 15, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Clouden was sent to the line once again and made both of her shots to clinch the Spartan victory.

MSU coach Suzy Merchant was proud of Clouden’s performance and her ability to influence her teammates.

“It’s fun to watch Nia’s confidence rub off on Matilda and the others, it’s a really positive thing to see,” Merchant said.  

“The mentality for us in the fourth quarter was do whatever we can to win,” said Clouden after her 25-point, five assist performance. Ekh was the team’s second-leading scorer with 23 points and five assists. 

Minnesota was led by Scalia with 31 points and two assists and Winters with 17 points and two rebounds.  

The Spartans will be traveling to Penn State for their next game on Thursday at 8 p.m.