Spartans Close Out Home Schedule With Win Over Penn State
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Most teams would be very happy to start out the year 10-1 heading into conference play. Especially in the Big Ten. But the Michigan State Spartans have faltered a bit in their conference schedule, even after a 57-48 win over Penn State on Wednesday evening.
The team sits at sixth in the conference following the victory and is one game behind Ohio State, who is 9-7 in the Big Ten; despite defeating Penn State.
The Spartans improved to 19-9 overall and 9-8 in the Big Ten standings and have now won two straight after defeating Michigan on Sunday.
“I was nervous about this game because we had a really big emotional game on Sunday. And that’s a hard thing to keep staying motivated when you have 18 games and its a quick turnaround,” said Merchant following the win.
“The kids were beat and tired because they played Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday, and now we gotta turn around and play again Sunday. We have been going hard in practice too because we needed to get a little mental toughness back to us.”
The team tied the school record home wins in a season with the victory Wednesday, finishing 15-1 at the Breslin Center with impressive wins over No. 2 Oregon and then No. 9 Maryland.
“Winning at home means a lot,” said sophomore forward Sidney Cooks. “Because we put in a lot of work here, it’s our home, it’s our territory. Mentally and physically we are preparing on our main floor and auxiliary gyms all the time.”
The team ties the record of 15 home wins set by the 2010-2011 team, with both teams coincidentally only losing to Ohio State in East Lansing. That 2010-11 team was bounced in the second round of the 2011 NCAA tournament by Green Bay.
The game wasn’t going to come easy on Wednesday though, as the Spartans and Nittany Lions both started out cold in the opening quarter. MSU led 6-5 at the 4:27 mark of the first quarter before taking a 10-5 lead following the first media timeout and end of the first.
Penn State missed 11-straight shots during a stretch of more than six minutes in the opening quarter, but both gained more of a rhythm in the second as MSU took a 32-24 lead into the half.
Many have applauded the Spartan defense, which played well down the stretch. MSU held Penn State to nine third quarter points to open up the second half, allowing the Spartans to get a big lead in the fourth. MSU led by 19 points late before PSU cut it to 13 with a little more than 6:30 to play.
The Spartans held off the late push and were able to get out with the win. MSU was led in scoring by freshman guard Nia Clouden with 14 points. The first-year starter is fifth in scoring in the Big Ten among freshman at 11.1 points a game.
Lauren Ebo had 13 points and 11 rebounds to lead Penn State, Ebo also had the only double-double of the game as well.
MSU finishes up its regular season on Sunday at Minnesota. That game will tip off at 4 p.m. on BTN Plus. Regardless of the outcome of that game, MSU will open its postseason at the Big Ten tournament Thursday in Indianapolis.