EAST LANSING — As the start of a new week begins, the Spartans will have another challenge away from Breslin as they travel to Piscataway for a matchup against Rutgers.
Araella Guirantes leads the Scarlet Knights. The redshirt junior from Bellport, New York, is averaging 19.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists.
Rutgers is coming off a 62-57 win against the Penn State Nittany Lions in which forward Jordan Wallace contributed 12 points, and Guirantes gave Rutgers 10 points.
On the other hand, the Spartans are coming off an impressive win at home against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Nia Clouden finished the game with 20 points, and senior guard Taryn McCutcheon, who has been dealing with a broken finger, gave nine points and seven assists. Clouden is leading the team with an average of 15.5 points a game.
If the Spartans are going to stop the red hot Scarlet Knights (15-2, 5-1), they will have to stop guard Guirantes as well as starting point guard Khadaizha Sanders. Against Penn State, Sanders gave 11 points and is averaging 5.9 points and 3.4 assists on the season. Gurirantes is one of the only Rutgers players that plays over 35 minutes.
Guriantes has a talent for getting to the free-throw line frequently. Shooting it at 78%, the Spartans will need to avoid costly fouls to prevent Gurirantes from getting into a groove.
The last time these teams met at the RAC, the then-No. 17 Spartans were beaten by then-No. 20 Rutgers 76-62 on Jan. 20, 2019.
As of late, sophomore starter Kayla Belles has stepped up. Belles is averaging 6.2 points and 3.9 rebounds. Belles gave Michigan State a career-high four blocks and six rebounds against the Buckeyes. Now that senior Victoria Gaines is out for the season, Belles has stepped into the starting center position and has dealt with it with grace.
One of the problems for the Spartans is in the fourth quarter. In eight of the last 10 wins, the Spartans have outscored their opponents in the quarter. When the Spartans allow over 15 points in the fourth quarter, they are 2-5.
Overall, the key for the Spartans is to stop Gurriantes and control the fourth quarter. If the fourth quarter gets out of control, the Spartans will be leaving New Jersey unsuccessful.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at the RAC in Piscataway. Viewers can stream the game on BTN+.
Contact Charlotte Steinberg at [email protected]