The biggest takeaways from MSU’s thrilling upset over Indiana

Aidan Champion, Sports Editorial Assistant

INDIANAPOLIS — Michigan State women’s basketball will move on in the Big Ten tournament after coming back to defeat No. 9 Indiana on Thursday night. There were moments where it looked like MSU would fall at the hands of yet another ranked opponent, but when there’s a Spartan will, there’s a way. Here are my most apparent takeaways from the contest:

Nia Clouden has NOT lost her touch

After getting back into her normal scoring rhythm on Wednesday night, it looked as if the junior guard was falling back into her funk when she only scored three points without a single made field goal in the first half. 

Clouden’s first-half scoring gloom was one of the primary reasons the Spartans found themselves down 34-26 at the half. A team is rarely efficient when its leader is having an off performance. 

It was only fitting that Clouden answered with a huge scoring outburst in the second half, dropping 27 of her 30 points in just the third and fourth quarters. In fact, Clouden scored 12 of MSU’s first 14 points to start the half, and in doing so, put the Spartans out in front.

A few underachieving performances were not at all expected from Clouden, especially at the end of the season. But she came out after halftime looking to execute, and as a result, finished with one of her best performances of the season. It certainly was her most important, as her team lives to fight another day after achieving its first win against a ranked opponent this season — a top 10 one, at that.

MSU still struggles protecting the ball

One of the biggest contributors to MSU’s rough first half was its 12 turnovers. This wasn’t the Penn State team that the Spartans could afford to lose the ball to the night prior. A top-10 team like Indiana will make you pay, and the Hoosiers certainly did that in the first half.

MSU cleaned it up in the second half, though, turning the ball over only six times. If this team wants to keep advancing in this Big Ten tournament, it needs to limit its bad passes and careless turnovers. Going forward, the Spartans will be playing the best in the conference, and you can quickly fall into a hole against them when you don’t protect the ball.

The Spartans can never be counted out

Indiana’s biggest lead in this matchup was 11 points, but no lead is safe when facing a determined opponent like MSU. 

The Spartans had multiple games in the regular season in which they came back from a large deficit to make for an interesting finale. They didn’t always complete the comeback, but on Thursday, when they needed to most, they did so, and in electrifying fashion.

MSU coach Suzy Merchant expressed a sense of relief after being accustomed to coming up short against ranked opponents.

“I think this team really enjoys playing together,” Merchant said. “Not only do they share the ball well, but collectively, I think defensively down the stretch, as maybe our offense was struggling at times, our defense kind of is starting to find itself a little bit more.”

She added, “Getting a win like this is certainly better than losing to a ranked team by three points.”

Through MSU’s first two games of the tournament, fans have had the privilege to see the team at its best this season. In elimination games — ones that also hold the weight of your NCAA tournament placement chances — that’s all you can ask for.