No. 23 MSU Women Host No. 18 Minnesota Wednesday

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - No. 23/24 Michigan State returns to the friendly confines of the Breslin Center after a pair of road losses to Northwestern and Indiana. The Spartans take on No. 18/20 Minnesota on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. This will be MSU’s third game in seven days, ending a grueling stretch. The Spartans and the Gophers are both looking to snap two-game losing streaks. Michigan State currently stands 11-3 overall and 1-2 in the B1G, while Minnesota is 12-2 with a matching 1-2 B1G mark.

• The Spartans had their season-high eight-game winning streak halted at Northwestern, 70-62 on Jan. 3. The streak was the longest since winning eight-straight during the 2012-13 season. Michigan State’s last loss came against then-No. 13 NC State at the Cancun Challenge, 78-74 on Nov. 22. MSU lost its second-straight game against IU on Jan. 6.

• Michigan State has had four players in double figures six times and are 4-2 in those games.

• The Spartans are now fifth in the nation in assists per game, averaging 20.9 apg, which is also second in the Big Ten. MSU is also sixth in the NCAA and first in the B1G in scoring 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 41.0 percent from beyond the arc.

• Forward Mardrekia Cook scored 11 points in her return to the starting lineup against Indiana. She has scored in double figures four times this season and was just three points shy of her season high. She also added seven rebounds and was just one rebound short of her career high.

Minnesota is off a fast start with a 12-2 record, capturing 12-straight games before losing its last two Big Ten games. The Gophers captured their Big Ten opener against Wisconsin at home, 74-56, before losing games at Michigan and at home to Illinois.

Kenisha Bell is third in the league in scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game, while Destiny Pitts is tied for 16th with 12.7 ppg. Taiye Bello is tied for first in the league in rebounding with Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, bringing down 12.9 rpg. Bell is also first in the Big Ten in steals just ahead of MSU’s Taryn McCutcheon with 2.5 spg.

As a team, Minnesota is third in the conference in scoring margin (+16.4) just behind Michigan State (+16.7), as well as standing third in scoring defense (55.9). In league games, the Gophers are fourth in field goal defense (.398) and first in rebounding offense (41.3).

Minnesota head coach Lindsay Whalen is in her first season at the helm of the Gophers. With the 12-0 start, Whalen tied her former coach, Pam Borton, whose first year was 2002-03, for the best undefeated start by a coach in their first year at a Big Ten school since the incorporation of women’s athletics in the conference in 1982-83.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Minnesota, 42-22. Last season, the Gophers won the only meeting between the teams in Minneapolis, 83-77. In that battle, six Spartans scored in double figures led by 14 points from Minneapolis native Nia Hollie, while Kenisha Bell led Minnesota with 22 points. Michigan State has won three of the last four meetings. MSU has won the last six games in East Lansing.

Junior forward Nia Hollie is playing against her home state for the third time. The Minneapolis native has always been solid against the Gophers. Her career high 14 points came in a loss to Minnesota in Minneapolis last season where she also tied a career high with three steals. Overall, in three games she averages 8.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game.

Playing in her home of Minneapolis, forward Nia Hollie scored a career-high 14 points as the Michigan State women’s basketball team dropped an 83-77 nailbiter to Minnesota at Williams Arena in Minneapolis on Jan. 7, 2018.

The Spartans fall to 12-5 overall and 2-2 in Big Ten play. The Golden Gophers improve to 13-4 overall and 2-2 in league contests.

For the first time this season, six Spartans scored in double figures led by Hollie’s 14. Freshman forward Sidney Cooks recorded her first collegiate double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. A trio of players scored 12 points in junior center Jenna Allen, redshirt-sophomore guard Shay Colley and sophomore guard Taryn McCutcheon. Off the bench, redshirt-sophomore forward Victoria Gaines added 10.

Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon has had some impressive performances against Minnesota. In three meetings, she is averaging 11.0 points and 5.0 assists per game. Last season in an 83-77 loss to the Gophers, McCutcheon was one of six Spartans who scored in double figures with 12 points two assists and two steals. During the 2016-17 season, MSU defeated Minnesota twice where she averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 assists per game.

Senior Jenna Allen has averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in four games. Last season was her first start against the Gophers where she scored 12 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Redshirt-junior forward Victoria Gaines has averaged 7.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in three games against Minnesota.

Typically, the Spartans come out strong in the second half. In 14 games, Michigan State has scored the most points in the third quarter, putting 311 points, while only allowing only 235 during that period. Michigan State has out-scored its opponents in every quarter.

In 14 games this season, the Spartans have had a player score in double figures six times. Senior center Jenna Allen has scored at least 20 points three times with a season-high 27 points against Oregon on Dec. Redshirt-junior guard Shay Colley has scored at least 20-points, including scoring 28 points against Northwestern on Jan. 3, which was the most by a Spartan this season. Freshman guard Nia Clouden is the final MSU player to reach the 20-point mark with 27 against Iowa on Dec. 30.

Freshman guard Nia Clouden is among the freshmen leaders in several Big Ten categories. She is third in the Big Ten in scoring among freshmen with 12.4 ppg behind Maryland’s Taylor Mikesell and Wisconsin’s Imani Lewis. Among freshman, she is first in the league in assists with 4.4 apg. She is also first among B1G rookies in steals, averaging 1.6 steals per game.

The Spartans continue to hold several top spots in the Big Ten rankings this week. MSU is still first in scoring offense, averaging 82.28 ppg, while Iowa is second with 82.27 ppg. The Spartans also lead the B1G in both 3-point field goal percentage (.410) and 3-pointers made per game (7.8). MSU also tops the league in turnover margin (+4.1), while ranking second in assists per game (20.9), scoring margin (+16.7), field goal percentage (.479) and assist/turnover ratio (1.5). MSU is also third in steals per game (9.3).

In B1G only action, Michigan State is third in field goal percentage (.449), assists per game (15.3) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1), along with ranking fourth in blocks per game (5.3) and fifth in scoring offense (70.0).

Michigan State has had success when it spreads the ball around this season. The Spartans are 7-0 when they have 21 or more assists in a game. Michigan State is also 11-0 when recording more assists than its opponents. Seven different players have led the team in assists this season, topped by junior guard Taryn McCutcheon, who has led MSU five times.

The Spartans stand No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches’ poll. This is the fifth-straight game that Michigan State has been ranked.

Michigan State’s Jenna Allen and Nia Clouden both captured Big Ten honors on Dec. 31 as announced by the league office. Allen earned Big Ten Player of the Week accolades, while Clouden garnered the Freshman of the Week honor. Clouden was also named USBWA National Freshman of the Week.

This is Allen’s second Player of the Week award this season and second of her career. Clouden captured her first Freshman of the Week honor and became the first Spartan to earn the award since Victoria Gaines on Jan. 2, 2017. This is the first time since the Freshman of the Week award began during the 2009-10 season that MSU has received both honors in the same week. The Spartans are also the first team to sweep the awards this year.

Allen, a native of Bedford, Indiana, scored 20 points, going 9-for-14 from the field on Sunday in the then-No. 21/22 Spartans’ victory against No. 16/16 Iowa in both schools’ Big Ten opener. She also added career-high 17 rebounds in the win.

Clouden, who hails from Owings Mills, Maryland, has been stellar all season for the Spartans. Against Iowa, she set a new career high with 27 points in 39 minutes in the victory against No. 16/16 Iowa. She shot 10-of-19 (.526) from the field and 6-of-9 (.667) from the free throw line to seal the win.

With two assists against Indiana on Jan. 6, junior guard Taryn McCutcheon remains alone in fifth in career helpers with 417 in just three seasons. She passed Tamika Matlock (1995-97) who had 403. McCutcheon is just 26 assists away from tying Deb Traxinger (1978-82) with 443 helpers. She is one of just seven Spartans to reach the 400-assist mark.

She is currently second in the Big Ten and 36th in the NCAA with 5.4 assists per game.

Michigan State is 24-13 in home Big Ten openers in 37 years in the league. Last season, the Spartans fell to Rutgers on Dec. 31, 61-58.

Overall, Michigan State is 19-18 all-time in Big Ten openers, having won six of its last eight ... Under Coach Merchant, the Spartans are 8-4 in Big Ten openers ... Last season, MSU earned a dominating 68-46 win over Indiana in Bloomington on Dec. 28, 2017.

This was the first time that Michigan State has started Big Ten play against Iowa since Jan. 6, 1984. In that match up the Spartans fell to the Hawkeyes, 70-62.

Michigan State’s 88-82 upset of No. 3 was MSU’s first upset win over an AP Poll top 5 team since a 107-105 3OT victory over No. 5 Ohio State on Feb. 27, 2016. It was the Spartans’ biggest upset win since a 68-64 upset of No. 3 Tennessee on April 3, 2005 in the NCAA Tournament. It was the highest regular-season win since a 82-73 OT win over No. 3 Notre Dame on Dec. 2, 2004.

Michigan State is now 21-15 at home vs. ranked teams under head coach Suzy Merchant. The Spartans are 2-1 against ranked opponents this season after a 78-74 loss to No. 13 N.C. State on Nov. 22 in Cancun, Mexico and a 84-70 win move Iowa on Dec. 30.

Senior center Jenna Allen netted a season-high 27 points against Oregon on Dec. 9, which was one shy of her career-best. She also added 23 points in a win against Florida Atlantic on Dec. 20 and 20 points against No. 16 Iowa on Dec. 30. She has four 20+ point outings this season and five in her career. Against both Oregon and FAU, Allen tied a career-high with three 3-pointers, matching three triples from at Notre Dame (12/16/17), which was also when her career-high of 28 points came. She has now scored in double figures 11 times this season and 37 times during her career.

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 184 of their last 195 games (.944) when leading with five minutes left, including 134 of their last 147. In Coach Merchant’s tenure, Michigan State is 219-17 (.928) when holding a lead with five minutes left. This season, the Spartans are 11-1 with the only loss coming against Indiana on Jan. 6.

The Spartans improved to 180-97 (.650) all-time in the month of December. Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 63-27 (.700) in the 12th month of the calendar year. The Spartans have won 35 of their last 49 games in December, including 6-0 this season.

Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon is currently 36th in the nation and second in the Big Ten in assists, averaging 5.4 apg, along with 29th in the nation and second in the league in total assists (75). McCutcheon is also 55th in the country and second in the conference in 3-point percentage (.422). Senior center Jenna Allen is 35th in the country and fourth in the league in field -goal percentage with a 56.1 percentage.

As a team, MSU is fifth in the NCAA and second in the B1G in assists per game, averaging 20.9. Baylor is first in the nation with 22.0 apg. Michigan State is also sixth in the nation and tops in the league in 3-point field goal percentage, shooting 41.5 percent behind the arc. The Spartans are also 16th in the country and second in the Big Ten in scoring offense, netting 82.3 points per game, as well as ranking 26th in the league and second in the nation in scoring margin at +16.7. MSU is 11th in the country and second in the league in field goal percentage, shooting 47.9 percent from the field.

As of Monday, Jan. 7, the Big Ten ranked No. 4 in the NCAA RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). In addition, a total of 10 Big Ten schools are among the top 80 in the NCAA team RPI rankings, including three in the top 25 and five in the top 50. Indiana leads the way at No. 12, followed by No. 14 Iowa, No. 21 Rutgers and No. 28 Michigan State. Maryland follows at No. 36. Five Big Ten teams are in the 70s in Minnesota at No. 71, Northwestern at No. 72, Purdue at No. 75, Nebraska at No. 78 and Michigan at No. 79.

Five Big Ten schools are ranked or receiving votes in the current Associated Press or USA Today/WBCA polls, including four in the Top 25, led by No. 9 (AP)/No. 9 (USA Today) Maryland. Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan State and Indiana round out the five B1G Top 25 teams, with the Hawkeyes at No. 17/17, Golden Gophers at No. 18/20, the Spartans at No. 23/24 and the Hoosiers at No. 25/RV. Rutgers is also receiving votes in both polls this week, while Michigan is receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll, with 12 Big Ten schools having been ranked or receiving votes in one or both polls for at least one week this season.

Michigan State head women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant has been named the recipient of the 2018 ATHENA Leadership Award, as announced by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. Merchant was presented her award at a luncheon at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on Dec. 6. The ATHENA Award honors individuals who strive towards the highest levels of professional accomplishment, who excel in their chosen field, have devoted time and energy to their community, and who pave paths for other women to follow.

Michigan State’s 102 points at Oakland on Dec. 5 was a season-high and the first time topping the 100-point mark this season after 99 points in the season-opener vs. Bowling Green (11/6) as one of three games in the 90s . . . The 102 points was the most points scored since 109 in the wild and thrilling four OT 111-109 loss to Indiana in last season’s Big Ten Tournament on March 1, 2018 . . . It was the Spartans’ most in a regulation contest since 107 points against Charleston on Nov. 19, 2017 . . . The 102 points scored marks the 10th time the Spartans have reached triple digits under head coach Suzy Merchant, improving to 9-1 . . . Overall it is the 19th time in program history, improving to 17-2, however MSU is 16-0 in games hitting 100 in regulation, along with 1-2 in OT games.

Michigan State senior center Jenna Allen added to her honors after being named U.S. Basketball Writers Association Ann Meyers Drysdale Women’s National Player of the Week on Dec. 10. She also garnered ESPNW and Big Ten Player of the week accolades on Monday.

Allen averaged 21.5 points on 17-of-24 shooting (.708 percent), including a 5-of-8 performance (.625 percent) from beyond the arc over two games last week. For the season, Allen is averaging career-highs across the board with 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. She is shooting a career-best .579 percent from the field and .500 percent from 3-point range.

In an upset over No. 3-ranked Oregon on Dec. 9, Allen scored a season-high 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field in a career-high 37 minutes played. The Bedford, Indiana native was 3-of-4 from distance including a triple with 35 seconds left in regulation that all but sealed the game for the Spartans. Allen also hauled in a team-best seven rebounds in the winning effort.

Michigan State was one of the six Big Ten teams to earn a victory in the 12th annual ACC/Big Ten Women’s Basketball Challenge, as the ACC won the Challenge, 8-6. MSU was joined in the win column by Indiana, Maryland, Ohio State, Purdue and Minnesota. The Spartans’ 25-point margin of victory (91-66) was not only the largest margin of victory, but also the highest B1G score. Overall, it was the third-largest margin of victory in the challenge, behind Notre Dame’s 34-point margin in 105-71 win over Iowa and 29-point margin in Florida State’s 87-58 win over Penn State. MSU’s 91 points was the second-highest scored in the Challenge behind Notre Dame’s 105 points.

The four points allowed in the first quarter against Virginia was the fewest this season. The fewest points MSU has allowed in a first quarter ever was two against Davidson on Nov. 11, 2016. Michigan State also held Kennesaw State to only six points in the second quarter on Nov. 23. That tied the least amount of points allowed by MSU in the second quarter. MSU also gave up only six points against Indiana on Dec. 28, 2017.
All-time, the Spartans are now 32-15 in season openers, but 24-2 when the opener is in East Lansing. Coach Merchant is 9-3 in season openers at MSU, and has won 15 of her last 18, including her time at Eastern Michigan. This is the fifth time in the past seven years Michigan State has opened with wins in five of its first six games.

In Coach Merchant’s first 12 seasons, the Spartans are 76-32 (70.4%) following a loss.

In head coach Suzy Merchant’s tenure, when two numbers on the scoreboard were achieved it typically has been a sign of a MSU win. Overall, MSU has scored at least 70 points in 12 of 14 games this season. MSU has won 130 of its last 144 games when scoring at least 70 points, and MSU is 147-21 under head coach Suzy Merchant when hanging at least 70 points on the scoreboard. This year, MSU is 11-1 when scoring at least 70 with a loss to No. 13 NC State on Nov. 22.

Redshirt-junior guard Shay Colley spent time overseas this summer playing for the Canadian National Team. Playing in Europe, Colley helped guide Canada to the quarterfinals of the FIBA Women’s World Cup.

Michigan State women’s basketball continues to pack the Breslin Center, finishing the 2017-18 season 10th in the nation and second in the Big Ten home attendance. The Spartans averaged 5,689 fans in 16 home games last season. MSU had a total of 91,026 fans pass through the gates. This is the 14th-straight season that the Spartans have been ranked in the top 15 nationally in attendance. MSU has had a total attendance of at least 80,000 since 2005-06.

This season, the Spartans are third in the Big Ten and 14th in the nation in attendance, averaging 5,369 fans per game. Michigan State packed 9,520 fans into the Breslin Center as MSU stopped Iowa on Dec. 30. Purdue leads the league in attendance, averaging 6,466 fans per game, while South Carolina is first in the nation with 11,001 per game.

To kickoff the beginning of Big Ten Women’s Basketball Media Week, the conference released the Preseason Coaches and Media Polls, in addition to the preseason All-Big Ten teams. Michigan State redshirt-junior guard Shay Colley was earned Preseason All-Big Ten honors by the coaches.

Maryland was voted to finish first in both the coaches and the media polls, while Iowa was picked second in both. In the coaches poll, Michigan was voted third, while Minnesota earned the third spot in the media poll. Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Megan Gustafson of Iowa was voted Preseason Player of the Year by both the coaches and the media.

Last season, Colley led the Spartans in scoring and was 23rd in the Big Ten, averaging 12.4 points per game. Colley was also tied for eighth in assists with 4.3 apg. In her first season with the Spartans, the guard also ended the season tied for fifth in steals with 1.9 spg.

MSU will now return to the road traveling to Ohio State on Monday, Jan. 14 on BTN. The Spartans will then host Maryland on Thursday, Jan. 17

Despite four Spartans scoring in double figures, the No. 15/17 Michigan State women’s basketball team dropped another close road battle to Indiana, 68-64, at Assembly Hall on Sunday afternoon.

Michigan State has now dropped two-straight games after winning eight in a row and stands 11-3 overall and 1-2 in Big Ten action. Indiana sits atop the Big Ten with a 14-1 record and a 3-0 mark in league play.

The Spartans had four in double figures led by senior center Jenna Allen, the Bedford, Indiana native, playing in Bloomington for the final time. Allen had 15 points to go along with three rebounds. Sophomore forward Sidney Cooks added 12 points off the bench, while redshirt-sophomore forward Mardrekia Cook scored 11 points with seven boards in her return to the starting lineup. Freshman guard Nia Clouden also added 10 points.

• With the starting lineup of Nia Clouden, Taryn McCutcheon, Mardrekia Cook, Victoria Gaines and Jenna Allen, Michigan State has had three different starting lineups. McCutcheon, Clouden, Gaines and Allen are the only three Spartans to have started all 14 games. MSU is 4-1 with this starting lineup.

• The six-point deficit at half time tied the biggest of the season for the Spartans, trailing both NC State (Nov. 22) and Iowa (Dec. 30) at half time. The Spartans are now 1-2 when trailing at half time.

• Senior center Jenna Allen added 15 points in the loss. She has now scored in double figures 11 times this season and 37 times during her career.

• The Spartans have had four players in double figures six times and are 4-2 in those games.

Michigan State women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant announced the signing of five National Letters of Intent, including Julia Ayrault (Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan/Grosse Pointe North), Cydni Dodd (Indianapolis, Indiana/Warren Central), Moira Joiner (Saginaw, Michigan/Heritage), Taiyier Parks (Cleveland, Ohio/North Royalton) and Alyza Winston (Muskegon, Michigan/ Muskegon). The class was ranked No. 6 by ESPNW Hoop Gurlz as of Nov. 15.

Ayrault is a 6-2 guard who plays for head coach Gary Bennett at Grosse Pointe North High School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan and played AAU basketball for Rob Ruhstorfer and the Michigan Mystics. Ayrault is currently ranked No. 14 in her position and No. 75 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz. Last season, she averaged 19.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game and led Grosse Pointe North to the Class A Final Four. Ayrault set program records of scoring 497 points scored in a season.

Dodd is a 6-5 center who plays for head coach Stacy Mitchell at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana and AAU basketball for Danny Riego and the Indiana Gym Rats EYBL. She is currently ranked No. 14 in her position and No. 84 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz. As a junior, Dodd averaged 11.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game on 70 percent shooting from the field. Dodd was named to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association Underclass Large School All-State team. Joiner is a 5-10 guard who plays for head coach Vonnie Delong at Heritage High School in Saginaw, Michigan and played AAU basketball for Jeff Taylor and the Michigan Storm. She is ranked No. 13 in her position and No. 57 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz. Joiner is a three-time Associated Press All-State honoree. In 2018, she led Heritage to the Class A state championship, averaging 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 4.0 steals. Joiner was also named the Associated Press Class A Player of the Year. The three-time captain earned the Army National Guard Team award last season.
Parks is a 6-2 forward who plays for head coach Matt Stricker at North Royalton High School in North Royalton, Ohio and played AAU basketball for Andre Gault and the SMAC. She is ranked No. 11 in her position and No. 93 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz. As a junior, she averaged 19.0 points to go along with 16.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocks per game. She earned first-team All-Conference honors as both a freshman and a junior.

Winston is a 5-7 guard who plays for head coach Rodney Walker at Muskegon High School in Muskegon, Michigan, which is the same high school that produced current Spartan Mardrekia Cook. Winston also played AAU basketball for Monique Brown and Michigan Crossover EYBL. Winston is ranked No. 18 in her position and No. 70 overall by ESPN HoopGurlz. Last season, she led the Big Reds to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history. As a junior, she averaged 21.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game.