Spartans dominate Northwood in regular season tune-up


MSU guard Nia Clouden/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Marin Klein, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING ── On Sunday afternoon, Michigan State defeated Northwood 95-49 in its lone exhibition game before the 2021-22 regular season. The five new freshmen on the team had strong debuts, and the Breslin Center was full of fans dressed in Halloween costumes, ready to cheer on the Spartans. 

Sunday was the first time the Spartans had played with fans since the 2019-20 season, and the energy from the players and fans made it clear how excited everyone was to be back. 

Michigan State is returning to the court after a strong season last year, finishing 8-7 in the Big Ten conference and 15-9 overall. The Spartans made it to the NCAA tournament as a No. 10 seed, but got knocked out by No. 7-seeded Iowa. 

The Spartans are not included in the AP top 25 rankings ahead of this season and are No. 6 in the Big Ten preseason poll.

The starting five for Sunday’s game included Alyza Winston, freshman Matilda Ekh, Moria Joiner, Alisia Smith and Nia Clouden. Clouden was recently added to the Nancy Lieberman Award preseason watch list, one of six Big Ten athletes on the list. 

At the start of the game, Northwood came out strong, putting up the first points, but this was the only lead they would have for the rest of the game, as the Spartans answered back quickly and dominated the court. The Spartans quickly pulled ahead with an early 32-10 lead.

After the first quarter, the Spartans shut down the Timberwolves, only allowing them to put up eight points in the second quarter, while the Spartans added to their lead with another 19 points. Northwood’s big mistakes resulted from a failure to rebound the ball and their struggle to make stops.

At the half, the Spartans led 51-18. Winston and Clouden led the team in scoring with eight points each. 

The Spartans came back to the court after halftime and showed no intention of letting their guard down. In the last half of the game, the Spartans saw impressive offensive performances from Winston, who led the team overall in scoring with a total of 20 points, Ekh, Clouden and freshman DeeDee Hagemann.

Michigan State is coming into this season having already lost two key players, senior Tory Ozment and junior Julia Ayrault, to season-ending injuries. Ozment suffered a tear in her ACL, and Ayrault tore a ligament in her foot. As a result, the team’s five new freshmen got a chance to shine, especially starting guard Matilda Ekh.

Ekh was one of the team’s top scorers Sunday, with a total of 15 points that resulted from multiple effortless 3-pointers. Head coach Suzy Merchant mentioned her confidence in Ekh to help fill in for the lost players, and Ekh definitely delivered. 

Sunday’s exhibition game was a window into what we should expect to see from the Spartans this season. There was strength all around on defense and offense. 

Michigan State is already working smoothly as a unit despite the loss of two players in preseason, and the addition of five freshmen and sophomore transfer Tamara Farquhar. The Spartans showed the strength and hard work needed to give them a strong season.

The Spartans hope to keep their momentum going into their regular season opener on Nov. 9 against Morehead State.

You can follow Marin Klein on Twitter @Marin_klein_.