MSU came to Indianapolis as a team with lots of potential, but after a bumpy regular season resume, many people wondered if they posed a real threat to a run at the Big Ten tournament and later this month the NCAA tournament.
Despite not hitting their first Big Ten championship game since 2016, they have proven that they pose a threat to any team that takes the place against them.
Head coach Suzy Merchant said the survival and forward atmosphere here at the tournament helped the team play at a high level.
The Spartans fought repeatedly, fighting back against early deficits, refusing to give up hope of victory until the full 40 minutes were up.
This week, Nia Clouden has proven she is one of the elite guards in the country, and when she’s in her A-game she alone makes the Spartans a tough matchup for any team.
Clouden scored over 20 points in two of the three games played by MSU. In one game he almost single-handedly won the game against Indiana.
Clouden said the team’s energy and combat ability are key to their success when they reach the NCAA tournament. If so, the Spartans are in good shape after fighting from behind in their first two games this week.
The MSU showed some weaknesses in their game during this tournament, highlighted by some slow starts that some of their role-players managed to overcome and jiggle, but they plan to return to the drawing board and make adjustments as they move forward.
“We’ve done some good things, but we need some more consistency from our top kids,” said Merchant. “If Nia scores we still need Alyza (Winston) to score.”
While Winston had an outstanding performance against Penn State, it fell flat against Iowa. And while freshman Kendall Bostic had a career game, scoring 13 points off the bench against Iowa, role-playing needs to be much more consistent for MSU to have a deep tournament in March.
MSU was also bitten by the injury bug during the Big Ten tournament when they lost Tory Ozment to Indiana to injury, while Taiyier Parks, Alisia Smith and Moira Joiner were injured in Indianapolis and if they play three games in three days, injuries hamper them definitely the ability to get into a rhythm.
“We had so many kids in and out,” said Merchant. “It was difficult to hold the flow.”
MSU misses players like Ozment and Julia Ayrault, but they feel like they can do well without them to be successful and have all the players ready to make an impact when needed.
MSU looks forward to the opportunity to rest and get well when they return to East Lansing and await their fate for the NCAA tournament on Selection Sunday.
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