INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Michigan State women took down Northwestern 68-52 with relative ease on Thursday to move on in the Big Ten tournament due to good shooting and getting the bench involved. The win set up a rematch with the No. 8-ranked Maryland Terrapins on day three of the tournament at noon in Indianapolis.
The Spartans won the first and only matchup of the season against the top-seeded Terrapins at the Breslin Center 77-60, and did so by getting scoring from lots of depth pieces. If they want any hope of pulling off another upset they’ll need to play like they did early in the year and break out of their recent slump.
MSU has already shown earlier this year that at their best, they can beat anyone. Only this time, they won’t have the Breslin Center backing them.
Maryland’s defense is its major strength, holding opponents to 36.4 percent from the field. This goes along with 75 points per game on offense, so if the Spartans want to win they must keep up with a high-powered offense led by Kaila Charles, who averages 16 points per game and overcome a strong defense.
Michigan State will need strong games from its guards. Taryn McCutcheon and Nia Clouden seem to dictate how well the rest of the offense clicks when they’re both hitting shots and opening up opportunities for others. Clouden has played very well this year as a freshman and will need to keep control of the pace if it starts to get out of hand and create opportunities to keep the offense strong as she did against Northwestern. The same goes for McCutcheon, who makes generating offense a lot easier for the Spartans when she is a reliable force both as a playmaker and as a perimeter threat.
Jenna Allen picked up 11 points and 5 rebounds against Northwestern yesterday, and the rest of the Spartans feel confident going into Maryland with the chance to upset them for the second time this year.
“It’s March, anything can happen,” Allen said. “We needed this game and we got it and it made everyone feel more confident. So we’ll use that confidence to go out and play and whatever happens, happens.”
The biggest deciding factor for the Spartans tomorrow will be their bench. The Spartans utilized their bench, as Nia Holley and Sidney Cooks played well against Northwestern and allowed MSU head coach Suzy Merchant to rest her starters. That will be the biggest focus for the Spartans tomorrow. If they can get their depth pieces to contribute as they did against Northwestern, an upset is more likely than a lot of people think. Tune in to the Big Ten Network tomorrow at noon where they will face off at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.