What we learned: MSU women’s loss to NC State

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By Sam Britten

Michigan State was fortunate enough to escape the cold Michigan weather and traveled to Cancun, Mexico for the yearly Cancun Challenge. The season heated up for this young team looking to prove their talent against a ranked NC State team. Despite a 78-74 loss to the No. 15 team in the nation, there’s a lot to be optimistic about.

The first thing that can be taken away is that the Spartans (3-1 overall) do not give up. The game opened with both teams battling back and forth. The Wolfpack would sink a three, and the Spartans would push the ball down the court and respond. It stayed like this until NC State went on a 14-0 run to close out the first quarter with a 25-12 lead.

Michigan State didn’t allow the deficit to discourage them. The Spartans battled back with a 20-7 run to tie the game at 32 with 4:12 left in the second quarter. Head coach Suzy Merchant calmed everyone down between the quarters, reorganized the plays, and the team ran right back into it.

Aggressive shooters are abound on the Spartans roster. Taking a total 75 shots to the Wolfpack’s 60, the stats show that this team can be great. The Spartans shot just 37.3 percent from the field, but if they made just two more baskets, the game could’ve been completely different.

Michigan State has been steadily improving from the line. The Spartans entered the game shooting 68.1 percent on free throws. They shot 69.2 percent against NC State. That isn’t a massive improvement, and there is still room to grow, but it’s a start. After shooting 75 percent against Wright State, regression is not ideal, but improving on a season statistic by any amount is progress.

Fouls may be trouble, but they show that this team is aggressive defensively. That stingy defense has a few players that are scary to have to score on. The 3-guard formation in Shay Colley, Nia Clouden and Taryn McCutcheon has proven to cause panic for the Spartans’ opposition. There have been countless occasions in which McCutcheon or Clouden dove for a steal or snuck up from behind and caused a turnover. Foul trouble isn’t ideal, but aggressive play causes confusion and mistakes for the opponent.

Michigan State fell just short in this game, but if the squad can make these changes to their game and move on from this loss, expect a competitive team in Michigan State. Even though they were out-rebounded, had more fouls and were less efficient shooting than NC State was, they almost won and showed they can make some noise in the Big Ten this year. The Spartans will resume play Friday against Kennesaw State to finish up the Cancun Challenge before coming back to East Lansing to take on Virginia on Nov. 28.