EAST LANSING—The Michigan State Women’s Basketball team got off to a slow start in their game against Central Michigan on Friday. However, the Spartans received several vital contributions from the bench and dominated in the paint, which made the difference in their 79-70 victory.
After getting out to an 8-2 deficit early in the first quarter, MSU coach Suzy Merchant turned to her bench early in the game, and it paid off in a big way. The Spartans’ bench outscored the CMU bench by a 23-5 margin. Taiyier Parks contributed 11 points and six rebounds off the bench.
Merchant was proud of the way Parks stepped up when her number was called.
“She (Parks) has great power; we felt like we could go to her,” Merchant said. “When she was in there, we wanted to utilize her. We ran some sets that allowed her to get a screen, a cross-screen, inside seals, just simple plays, and I thought she did a really good job being aggressive.”
Another key contributor was Janai Crooms, a transfer guard from Ohio State, who added seven points and four assists.
“She (Crooms) brings the ability to score over guards, she’s a playmaker, she can really score in space and get downhill and create opportunities for other people,” Merchant said. “She really knows the game, got a really high IQ and has a good basketball feel.”
Another key to the Spartans’ win was the motivation to score at the rim early and often. However, the Chippewas defense was not making it easy.
“They (Central Michigan) were really sagging off of us,” Merchant said about their defensive matchup, “They were just daring us to shoot and hope that we missed.”
The Spartans led the points in the paint margin 20-6 at halftime; they ended up outscoring CMU 40-14 in the paint.
MSU was once again led by junior guard Nia Clouden, who led the Spartans with 21 points. Clouden set the tone early with 10 points at halftime, eight of those which came in the paint. She made several key free throws to salt the game away late in the fourth.
Not only were the Spartans getting layup after layup in the post, but they were also drawing a lot of fouls down low. Clouden led the team in free-throw shooting, going 6-for-7 at the line. Overall, the Spartans outscored the Chippewas 21-7 at the charity stripe.
“It’s really important, especially on nights when I might not be shooting the ball so well,” Clouden said when asked about the importance of drawing fouls. “Being able to make those free throws gives me a lot of confidence to continue to attack and continue to be a scorer.”
Along with the bench scoring, the Spartans’ dominance in the paint and at the line carried them to a hard-fought win. The Spartans’ next game will be this Sunday, as they welcome Northern Illinois to the Breslin Center. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m.