INDIANAPOLIS — The No. 7-seeded Michigan State Spartans conquered No. 10-seeded Penn State 75-66 in their first Big Ten tournament matchup. The final score doesn’t exactly depict the story of the game, as it was a tale of two halves. But it is safe to consider the Spartans’ second-half play as one of their best performances in a half all season.
After giving up eight turnovers in the first half and allowing Penn State to make eight triples, MSU looked like it was at risk of being upset before its hopes of making the NCAA tournament could even be ignited.
MSU junior guard Nia Clouden was unable to make a field goal for much of the first half, and it seemed fans might have been in for another unusual low-scoring game from the team’s leading scorer and First-Team All-Big Ten member. But fortunately for the Spartans, Clouden made a point to prove in the final minutes of the second quarter why she was given such impressive honors.
Clouden scored eight of the Spartans’ final 12 points of the second half, finding her groove that her team so desperately needed. The team leader didn’t have any doubt in herself after coming out slow.
“I feel confident in what I can do,” Clouden said. “I just feel really good knowing that I could contribute tonight, and even with the slow start, I knew eventually things were going to turn around because I feel like that’s just how things work out. I was glad that they did turn around, and I was glad that we were able to get the win.”
The game was tied at 56 with just over seven minutes to go in the game. That’s when the sharpshooting sophomore guard Alyza Winston made two consecutive 3-pointers from the corner, giving the Spartans a comfortable two-possession lead. MSU didn’t look back from that point forward.
“I think that my team — when they see me scoring — I think that it picks everybody else up, and it gives everybody else a lot more confidence,” Winston said. “Hitting back-to-back threes, they give your team a boost, for sure. We came back on defense with a whole different mindset that time after I hit those two in a row.”
Notable performances included Winston’s 23 points, including five triples and seven rebounds.
Clouden finished with 18 points after three-straight games of putting up only single digits. Sophomore guard Moira Joiner recorded 13 points and six rebounds, while sophomore forward Taiyier Parks dropped 10 points and brought down five rebounds, including four that were offensive.
MSU will look to move further into the Big Ten tournament when it meets second-seeded Indiana Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Follow Aidan Champion on Twitter at @champion_aidan.