Aggressive defense leads to Spartan win over Wright State

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By Luke Saccone

EAST LANSING, Mich. — In the final game of Michigan State’s season-opening homestand, the Spartans won against the Wright State Raiders 84-68 on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Michigan State came into Sunday’s matchup against Wright State with a consistent and balanced scoring attack. Through the first two games, six Spartans are averaging double figures, helping the team to their 2-0 start.

Sunday’s matchup started physically as both sides had strong frontcourt play. As the game progressed the Spartans showed their potential in many aspects, including scoring in the paint and their defense.

“We really focused on a couple of kids and we did a good job on them,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said. “I like our defensive progress for sure, I think we are trying to do some things that you know we didn’t do very well at times last year.”

The Raiders took a quick 10-4 lead with two quick 3-pointers. Michigan State used that balanced scoring attack to go on a 14-point run with consistent scoring inside to take an 18-10 lead. Jenna Allen and Shay Colley led the Spartans in the first quarter with six points apiece.

The Spartan defense was also making a big impact, notching five steals in the first quarter and 15 steals altogether.

“During our exhibition matches we were kind of everywhere,” Colley said. “It is good that we are all on the same page on the defensive end and offensive end.”

The second quarter featured plenty of MSU fast-break basketball. They were able to break Wright State’s press, resulting in layups on the other side.

At halftime, Michigan State led 45-33. Michigan State shot poorly from beyond the arc, shooting 1-for-9, but made up for it inside, outscoring the Raiders 30-10 inside the paint and going 16-5 on fastbreak points.

The Spartans also used their balanced scoring, as eight Spartans scored in the first half.

“We are playing together more, playing faster,” said Colley. “And then playing on the defensive side, we are helping each other, being in our gaps as coach emphasizes every day in practice.”

Getting inside and pushing the pace allowed for Michigan State to get six baskets from layups in the third quarter, including two from Shay Colley and two from Nia Clouden.

The Spartans held their 12-point lead at the end of the third quarter, leading 61-49. The Raiders ended the quarter on a 5-0 run including a layup with two seconds left.

In the fourth quarter, Taryn McCutcheon found her stroke from three, knocking down three 3-pointers, and adding nine points to her final total of 15 points. That came after not hitting a shot in the first half.

“Coach pointed out that that is growth for me, and I feel like that is true,” McCutcheon said. “I feel like last year I would’ve just been like ‘okay I’m not hitting today, I’m not gonna shoot the rest of the game, I’ll look for my teammates.’”

Wright State fought with Michigan State, but couldn’t find an answer to the Spartan offense. Mackenzie Taylor led the Raiders with 19 points. The Raiders only shot 38.7 percent from the field in the game.

Michigan State dominated in the paint, outscoring the Raiders 58-26 overall in the paint as well as fastbreak points, outscoring them 31-11.

Against Wright State, nine Spartans scored, and four scored in double digits, led by 21 from Shay Colley. Colley also flirted with a triple-double, dishing out nine assists and eight total rebounds.

The Spartans next head out on the road for the first time this season when they play NC State on Thanksgiving and Kennesaw State the next day in the Cancun Challenge in Cancun, Mexico.

“I’m looking forward to it, I mean it is fun to get a little bit of the sun,” Merchant said. “It will be a good test to get away from our environment.”