Michigan State earns first Big Ten road victory at rival Michigan

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MATTHEW MITCHELL

Jenna Allen/MSU Athletic Communications

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -After bouncing back at home against Illinois, the No. 23 ranked Spartans traveled to Ann Arbor for a road matchup. Traveling has been Michigan State’s downfall this season, as the Spartans were 3-5 outside of the Breslin Center entering this game, but they showed up when it mattered most today. Michigan’s perfect home record of 8-0 comes to a close after Michigan State claimed victory by a score of 77-73, earning its first Big Ten road win.

“Today I thought we shared the ball extremely well and we just found each other when we were open,” center Jenna Allen said. “We knocked down shots which we haven’t been able to do on the road so far so that was really uplifting for us.”

A rivalry like this is always expected to be a good showcase of talent on both sides. Fans of both teams showed up, but the Maize and Blue faithful assured Michigan State they weren’t welcomed in Ann Arbor.   

Halfway through the first quarter, Michigan was challenged when its third highest scorer in Nicole Munger went down with a leg injury. Head coach Kim Barnes Arico said Munger will likely be getting an x-ray later tonight.

A back and forth game meant any momentum could be the difference, which is what made Shay Colley’s smooth layup in the final seconds of the first quarter so sweet. Michigan only led Michigan State once after Colley’s basket. Nia Hollie also had some last second stardom for Michigan State with a layup that sent her team into the locker room with a 41-31 lead.

Late-game slumps continue to plague the Spartans. Michigan State had a lead as high as 15 points multiple times in the third quarter, but let the Wolverines crawl back into the game. Despite getting off to a hot start and controlling the momentum in the second half, Michigan outscored Michigan State 21-16.

The fourth quarter saw more back and forth action, but Michigan State had the game in its hands when an inbounds pass from Nia Clouden to Jenna Allen was poorly communicated and cost Michigan State possession. The Spartans ultimately claimed victory, but there seems to be a consistent inconsistency at some point in the second half.

Though she didn’t have one of her signature games, Sidney Cooks looks like a starter going forward. Victoria Gaines has been the main starting forward this season, but after Cooks was averaging 10.1 points, nearly  rebounds and shooting 49 percent from the field in only 18.8 minutes per game, Suzy Merchant made the swap and had Cooks started her second game of the season.

Jenna Allen got back to her success, tying Shay Colley and Taryn McCutcheon with 14 points while shooting above 50 percent with 7 rebounds as well. Colley played the entire game while McCutcheon played just over 39 minutes. The two were huffing and puffing but Suzy Merchant remained confident in the pair.

“I tried to get Shay out a couple more times. I just felt comfortable when she was out there,” Merchant said. “But Taryn’s played 40 minutes a game almost every game that she’s played for me.”   

A rematch is set in stone for Feb. 24 at the Breslin Center. Michigan will likely not be competing for the Big Ten title that Michigan State aspires to win, but they will be looking forward for a chance at revenge and another chance to take down their in-state rival. Michigan State will look to extend its winning streak to three games on the Jan. 31 when they take on Penn State at home.