EAST LANSING, Mich. — After three consecutive games on the road, Michigan State’s women’s basketball team came home to the Breslin Center for Alumni Day on Saturday. 11,950 Spartan fans attended to see the Spartans face the Indiana Hoosiers for the second time this season. Although the Spartans picked up a win when the two teams met in December, the Spartans failed to defeat Indiana, 69-65.
The Spartans kicked off the first quarter with a lack of defense. Hoosier guard Tyra Buss managed to get through MSU defense’s with ease, scoring seven points in less than four minutes. Shooting the lights out, Indiana captured a solid lead at the end of the first quarter 33-14. Buss had 16 of those points,and Indiana shot 86.7 percent in the first quarter.
“She’s (Buss) very capable,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said. “She had a different kind of edge to her tonight. She isn’t the best three-point shooter, she’s more [an]off the bounce kid. She just really, as a senior, put her team on her back and got sick of losing.”
Indiana could not miss a shot, while State could not find opportunities to shoot. This imbalance carried over to the second quarter.
Buss scored the first points of the quarter with an inevitable three-pointer. Spartan Taryn McCutcheon tried to stop the ridiculous amount of pointage coming from Buss. Quick and aggressive, McCutcheon challenged Buss defensively, and soon enough the Spartans gained momentum.
Down by 20 in the middle of the second quarter, Michigan State needed to shut down IU shooters and make shots. Spartan forward Victoria Gaines picked up the pace; drawing fouls and making moves. Her intensity paired with Jenna Allen’s determination underneath the basket, the Spartans closed in, ending the half 45-32.
“We came out, and I mean honestly we’re all we got,” Allen said. “We just took the mentality that, you know, ‘not today’, we’re gonna fight back. This was our home floor and we just gave it our all.”
Who knows what coach Merchant said in the Spartan locker room during halftime, but whatever it was; it worked. The Spartans came out strong and fierce in the third quarter. Nia Hollie was back in, having been taken out in the first quarter due to two quick foul calls. Right on their tails, the Spartans were now only down by nine in the middle of the third quarter. Because of Hollie’s aggression and speed, Michigan State was feeding off her energy.
Although the second half did not feature much of McCutcheon due to what seems to be an injury, the team played hard in her absence. Hollie led the offense, bringing up the ball, scoping out the court, and taking advantage of open lanes. The third quarter ended with only an eight-point lead from the Hoosiers 61-53.
Spartan Sidney Cooks came out with electricity in her veins in the fourth quarter. She followed her shots, got her own rebounds and most importantly made her shots. Her intensity was contagious. Indiana’s 20-point gap became a three-point gap. With 22 seconds left in the game, Merchant called a play for sixth-year senior Brandy Agee, but Agee failed to make the shot. The game finished 69-65 in favor of Indiana.
“I’m just super proud of our fight in the second half, and certainly proud of what Nia did today, Merchant said. “Tyra came in here and just went off, in the first half. We had no answer for her. We were trying and we started doing some different things in the second half that helped. We didn’t quit and that’s a good thing.”
Buss led the Hoosiers in scoring with a solid 28 points, while Allen led the Spartans with 16 points. Indiana shot 29.1 percent last time they faced MSU, and on Saturday they shot 45.3 percent. Injuries may have affected this game, along with the many missed baskets.
“We were doing everything we could to kind of manufacture points,” Merchant said. “I didn’t have any players left, I had all post players left.”
The Spartans will head back on the road to face some tough teams. On Jan. 23, MSU takes on No. 19 Michigan in a rivalry matchup. A few days later on Jan. 27, the Spartans will head to Columbus to take on No. 8 Ohio State.