Spartan women pull away in second straight win

EAST LANSING, Mich.– Overpowering defense and a strong shooting performance helped the MSU women’s basketball team pull away for a home win over East Tennessee State Sunday afternoon.

The Spartans understand how tough ETSU can be. The Buccaneers nearly defeated MSU last season and had a chance to win it with one second left as Tianna Tarter’s layup rimmed out to end the fourth before falling last year to MSU in overtime.

The game Sunday was a far cry from that one. MSU blew open a 10 point lead after three quarters to defeat East Tennessee State, 75-53.

With the Spartans down 16-7 late in the first quarter–after jumping out to a 5-0 lead to start the game–guard Taryn McCutcheon hit a big three to end an 8-0 ETSU run. That set up a 7-2 run to get MSU back in the game.

“Kind of a tale of two halves,” said MSU coach Suzy Merchant. “A little bit flat in the first half and I thought in the second half, I thought we definitely kind of put our foot on the gas.”

The Spartans got rolling in the second quarter of the game, and despite senior center Jenna Allen missing most of the first half with foul trouble, the team scored 18 points in the quarter.

Shay Colley, who left in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury, had four points at the break. The Spartans were led in scoring by McCutcheon with six points at the half, as they held onto a 32-29 lead after 20 minutes.

“She’ll be fine,” Merchant said of Colley. “When I went back to the locker room she said ‘I’m good, coach.’”

MSU began to wear down the defense of ETSU with their bigs as the game wore on. Six different players over 6-foot saw playing time during the second and third quarters.

The Spartans’ balanced scoring in the frontcourt showed, as three forwards scored in double figures. Madreika Cook (12 points), Sidney Cooks (14 points) and Allen (10 points) all had huge games for Michigan State.

“We all know what we’re capable of,” said Cooks. “Me and Dreika’, before we got into the game, we’re looking at each other saying how good we actually are, that we are such an athletic and versatile team.”

The Spartans’ physical play style began to show through heading into the final frame. After leading 55-45 at the end of three, the Spartans pushed an already-intimidating lead to 22 late in the fourth quarter following freshman Nia Clouden’s and-one floater with less than three minutes to play.

East Tennessee State, who went 20-13 last season, was led in scoring by Micah Sheets with 11 points. The Buccaneers shot 20-of-57, and 21.4% in the fourth quarter and are now 0-2 this season following a 77-64 season-opening loss to Cincinnati and today’s game.

Following the win, Michigan State is now 2-0 on the season and their next game will come against Wright State at home on Sunday, November 18th.

“I definitely see some progress,” said Merchant about the team’s 2-0 start. “I think that this is a team that really wants to learn, they really want to be good.”