The achievement of 10-0 marks Michigan State’s record during home games. MSU began its home-court defense against the Maryland Terrapins by hitting three 3-pointers in a row and furthering that lead with two baskets by Jenna Allen. As the crowd chanted “Go Green, Go White!,” Allen drained another 3-pointer.
As if the excitement couldn’t get any better, Taryn McCutcheon stole the ball off a pass and made another layup, which extended the lead. However, after a Maryland recovery, the score became 25-15. All of this occurred in the first quarter.
The Spartans are currently 13-4 overall, but carry a 3-3 conference record. The three conference losses are against Northwestern, Indiana and Ohio State and are all away losses. Furthermore, the losses have also all been by 10 points or less. The question remains, “How can the Spartans succeed at home games, but lose at away games?”
“It’s great to be home, everyone likes to play home,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “But you do have to play games on the road.”
Home is where the fans are and where the spirit of the team is the highest, this is true for the Spartans. Just last week, the then No. 18 Minnesota Golden Gophers came into East Lansing looking to secure another ranked win. However, the spirit of home-court enabled the Spartans to win 86-68. The fans play a huge role in motivating this team to come out fighting.
“We get a lot of support. The fans, they always come out,” guard Nia Clouden said. “We really feed off the fans’ energy, especially when the other team makes a run and say we make a basket right after that. They really get us going.”
It’s that type of energy that fuels a team. When a basket is scored or a shot is blocked, the fans’ energy is what keeps the athletes on their feet. For the Spartans, it’s what keeps them in motion. Thursday’s victory was both beneficial for the standings and the spirit. This home victory was necessary because without it, the momentum of MSU wouldn’t be shifting forward.
“I think it’s really big for us. We want to show and improve to ourselves and everyone else that we can play with the best teams in the country,” Clouden said.
This team has proven itself time and time again that they can compete in games against the best teams. That home-court advantage has provided them with a platform to help ensure victories. Then ranked teams, No. 3 Oregon and No. 16 Iowa, hoped to come out of East Lansing with a win, but did not.
The crowds at the Breslin Center were loud for those games, and the arena had to open up more seating for the Iowa game. With victories like 88-82 against Oregon and 84-70 against Iowa, the Spartans gained more confidence from playing at home with increasing numbers of fans and the resulting increase in energy.
“I felt like we were just extremely flat. Just energy-wise, like we were there but we weren’t really competing,” Merchant said. “And I always say there’s a difference between playing and competing.”
The Spartans rode to Columbus after a ranked victory at home against Minnesota, energy levels were high and momentum had shifted to their advantage. However, they were unprepared for what Ohio State would bring to the floor and were not in familiar territory. The same can be said for the Northwestern and Indiana games, which were both after a victory against Iowa.
Home-court advantage is something not to be taken lightly. It is the act of fans showing up and supporting their team the most. Home is where a team feels so familiar that they can try new strategies and play around with rotations to figure out effective ways to score. This is where team spirit shines brightly. In away territory, past experience is used to plan for the game, as it is unfamiliar territory. That is where the Spartans are right now, and where they must win.