EAST LANSING, Mich – After disappointing road trips to Northwestern and Indiana, the Spartans defeated a struggling Big Ten opponent in No. 18 Minnesota at home 86-68. After losing two straight games in a weak conference like the Big Ten, this contest was vital for Michigan State to stay afloat in the standings and keep moving forward in their quest for a successful season.
The Spartans got off to a decent start, but struggled to shut down the Gophers. Despite going on an 8-0 run to take a 17-7 lead with 8:44 remaining in the quarter, the Gophers trailed by three after one. Offensively, the team played like they have all year, with a few exceptions of course. Defensively, the Spartans only allowed Minnesota to shoot 58.3 percent from the field.
“I didn’t think we did a good job of sharing the ball and making sure we could get the best shot,” Suzy Merchant said. “I also think that they did a good job of attacking us at that point. We started putting them to the free throw line a little bit we were doing some kind of silly things.”
Minnesota shot 89.5 percent from the line on 19 free throws in the game.
The second quarter saw the team that Michigan State has been at home this year. MSU shot 52.6 percent from the field, grabbed 12 rebounds, assisted on eight baskets and shot a surprising 100 percent from the line.
This quarter also saw a dramatic block fans will not forget. With 6:16 left to play in the half, Sidney Cooks denied Minnesota guard Kenisha Bell going to the basket and had an intense look in her eyes when she came down.
“Honestly I didn’t even know how high I ended up jumping and how hard I hit the ball until I saw Mardrekia’s reaction,” Colley said. “Then once I realized that was a good block, I was pumped up and proud of myself.”
Every player that entered the game scored, no Spartan walked to the bench without a few points on their stat line. The half is over, right? Wrong. Without hesitation, Shay Colley turned around, stole the inbounds pass from Palma Kaposi, made a layup and got the foul. Instead of walking away with a 40-29 halftime lead, Michigan State walked away with a 14-point 43-29 lead.
Michigan State seemed to have figured out the Gophers at this point, despite being outscored in the third quarter 27-24. Minnesota also took advantage of MSU’s foul trouble, shooting 7-for-7 from the line. Sidney Cooks was used sparingly after committing three personal fouls. Despite a few falters in the quarter, Michigan State went to the bench with a 67-56 lead.
Jenna Allen, Colley and Cooks were all making big contributions in the fourth quarter to give Michigan State a convincing lead. The Spartans led by 22 with five minutes left to play and had done all but claimed victory.
In the waning seconds of the game, Lauren Jacqmain, a player who transferred to MSU earlier this season, got her first seconds of play, which resulted in an uproar of cheers from the bench.
Colley, Cooks, Allen and Clouden all put up double-digit points in tonight’s victory. Shay Colley seems to have returned to her true form after an MCL injury left her sidelined while Cooks looks like a reliable bench player to rest the starters when they need it.
Michigan State claimed victory 86-68 to bring their home record to 9-0 on the season. The Spartans will likely rise in the rankings, with their next game coming against the struggling 4-8 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on Monday.