EAST LANSING, Mich. — Coming off a win in Connecticut against the Hartford Hawks, the No. 22 Michigan State women’s basketball team (10-1, 0-0) won their final non-conference game against the Florida Atlantic Owls (3-7, 0-0), 89-74. This win came at a cost though, as early in the second quarter, guard Taryn McCutcheon suffered a serious injury and was taken off the court.
The first quarter was a breeze as the Spartans led the Owls 29-12. MSU’s Jenna Allen led with 11 points and Nia Clouden followed with 10 points. Tory Ozment came in for Nia Hollie and had four assists making nine points for the Spartans. Adding to that, the Spartans shot 61.1 percent on field goals and 57.1 percent on 3-pointers. The Spartans had only four turnovers which led to only 2 points for the Owls. Also, the Spartans managed to score 14 points off of 9 Owl turnovers.
“I think the biggest thing is, for us, we always want to capitalize on any turnover or missed shot,” said MSU head coach Suzy Merchant. “I think it really worked for us, and our kids have really bought into it.”
At the 9:22 mark of the second quarter, Clouden came back in after McCutcheon was carted off. McCutcheon hit her head on the floor with a hard impact after going for a defensive rebound. Clouden would contribute three defensive rebounds, five points and one assist during her time in the second quarter.
The results of missed shots from both teams resulted in an increase on rebounds, but less points off of turnovers and steals. Compared to the first quarter, this quarter was marked with fatigue. Nonetheless, the Spartans were able to establish a 45-29 lead going into the half.
“It’s a good time for a break I guess. Other kids gotta play and step up,” said Merchant. “She’s [McCutcheon’s] been, to me, such a warrior through this whole tough time.”
McCutcheon is regarded by Merchant as one of the best guards on this team. While this team is very talented, this team has been plagued by injuries throughout times in previous seasons. McCutcheon has been a talented player so far and continues to step up in spite of the injuries that happen. Tonight was also good for other players to get some experience on the court before beginning Big Ten games.
At the beginning of the second half, the Owls went on a 5-2 run against the Spartans. The Spartans instantly responded with a 3-point basket by Allen. However, she fouled Amber Gaston of the Owls after she made a basket. Unlike the first two quarters, this looked like a game of cat and mouse as the Owls looked like they were starting a run to get near the Spartans. Allen managed to keep the Spartans’ momentum going with another three.
This game of cat and mouse up kept going as the Owls put more points up, but Allen, Ozment and Hendrickson each responded with 3-pointers of their own.
The final baskets of the third quarter were marked with a 3-pointer from FAU’s Tyana Robinson and a buzzer-beater three by Claire Hendrickson. While Hendrickson had a couple of 3-pointers, it was Ozment who had the biggest third quarter, scoring nine points on four baskets from assists by Clouden, Cooks and Allen.
While the Spartans outscored the Owls 29-23 by the end of the third quarter, it was clear that the Owls were taking advantage of open space for more 3-pointers and had eight points off of second chances.
“We have work to do and we know that,” said Clouden. “I think today we just got a little unfocused.”
In the fourth quarter, Cooks and Nia Hollie were able to grab rebounds and put up points to keep the Spartans from falling off track. Allen exited the game with a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds). After Allen exited, Gaines and Cooks made one layup each to get MSU over the finish line, winning 89-74. Clouden exited the game while tying her career-high of 18 points.
With an extended period without any games, there is a good amount of time for players to get some rest before their next practice and game against No. 16 Iowa.
“Yeah, we’re excited. We definitely need this break. Our legs are gone. We need this break, but we are so excited,” said Cooks. “I’m excited for Big Ten season. I think we’ll surprise a lot of people.”
This game was an interesting game as even though FAU possessed a record of 3-8, they still challenged the Spartans to keep them going in every quarter. The Spartans were able to convert on turnovers and steals, but still have work to do on the defensive end. Now, the No. 22 Spartans have an extended break until Dec. 30 where the No. 16 Iowa Hawkeyes come to the Breslin for their first game in Big Ten conference play in a ranked matchup.