Four reasons why the Spartans’ fell to Nebraska 68-64

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Taiyier Parks drives by Maryland F Mimi Collins in the Spartans’ 93-87 loss/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Zach Surdenik, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — The No. 23 Michigan State Spartans’ lost their second in a row after a 68-64 loss to Nebraska at the Breslin Center on Sunday afternoon. Here are some takeaways from the contest:

1. This is a game the Spartans needed

If the Spartans want to compete for a Big Ten title, this is the type of game that they need to find a way to win. Nebraska shot the ball very well and led throughout the game, but MSU overcame an early second-half deficit to take the lead heading into the fourth quarter. It seemed like the Spartans were going to run away with the game, but they just could not put the Cornhuskers away. A 9-0 run for Nebraska flipped the game in the late stages and MSU didn’t have the response in the end. 

2. MSU was doomed by another slow start

Over the start of the season, MSU had been a very strong first-half team, but the last two games have shown otherwise. In Thursday’s game against No. 12 Maryland, the Spartans fell behind by fifteen in the first half before furiously charging back into the game with a comeback that came up just short. Sunday’s contest was similar. Nebraska came out hot and MSU was unable to respond immediately, leading to a nine-point halftime deficit. The Spartans had the energy out of the break to come back, but ultimately ran out of gas in the end. 

Mo Joiner attempts a contested layup over Maryland G Diamond Miller/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

3. The loss of Julia Ayrault was huge

Julia Ayrault has been a very strong contributor for the Spartans in her sophomore season and had a hot start to the game, scoring seven points in the first half. She was dearly missed in the second half after leaving the game with an injury. 

“(The injury) really hurts us because she’s someone we really rely on at the four.” Coach Suzy Merchant said after the loss. 

Ayrault has provided a strong presence on the boards, while also being one of MSU’s top perimeter scorers. The loss allowed the Cornhusker defense to completely key in on Alyza Winston in the game’s final seconds when the Spartans needed a 3-pointer to tie the game. 

4. The Spartans showed their bench depth

Even with the loss, the fact that MSU was in the game while shooting 5-of-25 from behind the arc and turning the ball over 14 times is a testament to the depth that the team possesses. The Spartans had three players score in double figures: Nia Clouden (14 points), Tory Ozment (11) and Winston (10), but also got seven points from Janai Crooms, Ayrault, and Taiyier Parks. This is a team that goes deeper than past Spartan teams with a plethora of players that can go for double figures on any night. 

Janai Crooms attempts to  drive past Maryland G Ashley Owusu/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The Spartans have a chance to right the ship when they play Illinois on the road Thursday. The Fighting Illlini (2-6, 0-5) are currently winless in Big Ten play, and they have lost by 20 or more in four of their five conference losses.