Spartans seek to snap out of slump against Scarlet Knights

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Moira Joiner (Photo: Ian Gilmour / WDBM)

Ian Drummond, Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — This season has not gone according to plan for Michigan State. The Spartans are in the midst of a five-game losing streak and dealing with season-ending injuries to starters Mardrekia Cook and Shay Colley. 

To top it off, Michigan State’s next opponent, Rutgers, allows the fewest points in the Big Ten at 55.3 per game. Guard Arella Guirantes puts up 19.7 points per game on the other end, too. The Spartans’ luck isn’t likely to change.

“[Guirantes] is a prolific scorer,” said MSU coach Suzy Merchant after Wednesday’s practice. “The kid can just athletically elevate over us, create her own shot… she’s just very talented.”

Merchant was frank in discussing her team’s recent shortcomings as well. 

“When we were winning, we were shooting the ball well,” said Merchant. “When we’ve lost, we’ve been shooting barely 30 percent, 20 percent from the arc. I mean, you have to make shots to win games.”

Michigan State’s offense has only cracked 60 points in one of its last five games, a 76-66 loss to Purdue. 

Freshman Spartan guard Moira Joiner was more optimistic. After all, the Spartans beat the Scarlet Knights 66-55 on Jan. 26, their last win before the losing streak began.

“Last time we played them, we actually got quite a few open shots,” Joiner said. “And we knocked them down. I think if we attack them good enough, we’ll get open looks.”

The Spartans hope to take advantage of those looks in the rematch. Joiner’s fellow guard, senior Taryn McCutcheon, is finally healthy after a thumb injury that impacted her shooting. She went 3-for-10 from behind the arc in the loss against Northwestern on Monday.

Joiner has been excellent from deep all year, but the Spartans need both her and McCutcheon shooting well to open up their interior game.

“We need our All-Conference guards to buck up and make shots when they’re open,” said Merchant.

Michigan State plays Rutgers on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Contact Ian Drummond at drummo43@msu.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @idrumma.