MSU women’s basketball sweeps Michigan for first time since 2019

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Parker Beavens

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A day after the men’s team took the Crisler Center floor and got a win against their rivals, the Michigan State women’s team looked to do the same Sunday afternoon and sweep the Wolverines for the first time in five years. It was a win they needed to have, too. The Spartans were coming off the heels of two straight losses to ranked opponents–a tough loss to Indiana followed by a beatdown at the hands of Ohio State. If they were going to lock up their spot in the tournament, it would have to start with a win against their rival.

A win in a hostile environment is easier said than done. The Wolverines were also trying to keep their postseason hopes alive, and they played like it.

The threes rained down early in Ann Arbor, three from Michigan’s graduate guard Elissa Brett, and two from junior guard Laila Phelia. On the other end of the floor, interior defense kept a tight lid on the paint, forcing MSU to shoot from deep. This gave Michigan a lead as big as nine in the opening minutes.

What kept it close for the Spartans was free throw shooting. They shot five of seven, while the Wolverines didn’t see the free-throw line at all in the first quarter. Turning what could’ve been a dire situation early into a manageable two-point deficit entering the second.

“I think that’s a testament to … what we’ve done all year. We’ve been resilient, we’ve been tough, that’s kind of what we’ve put our identity in,” said graduate guard Tory Ozment.

The second quarter was almost a mirror image of the first, with MSU taking a sizable lead, only for Michigan to make it close by halftime. The Wolverines’ three-point shooting suddenly went cold, allowing Ozment to take control, scoring eight in the second quarter and shooting two of three from three-point range. Junior guard DeeDee Hagemann and sophomore guard Theryn Hallock both hit a three of their own as the Spartans went on a 10-0 run to forge a nine-point lead.

Michigan closed out the half with a quick 7-3 run, capped off by yet another three-pointer, this time from graduate guard Lauren Hansen, making it a five-point game at halftime.

In the first half, both teams shot a combined 12-27 from three–a staggering 44%. It’s a surprising statistic considering neither team averages higher than 38% from beyond the arc this season.

The second half got off to a troubling start for MSU. Graduate guard Moira Joiner hit a three-point shot–the 13th of the game for both teams–and appeared to take a knock on the knee from Hansen in the process. She was visibly shaken up, limping to the free throw line afterward, but carried on to stay in the game.

The Wolverines pounced on the opportunity, and in this game of runs, scored the next 13 points to take a five-point lead. After graduate guard Julia Ayrault hit a three-point shot to tie the game at 50, this contest turned into the scrappy game one would expect of two teams fighting for a tournament spot.

MSU forced six turnovers in the third quarter, four of which came in the last three minutes, thanks to an aggressive frontcourt press. After forcing a 10-second violation and a backcourt violation on successive Michigan possessions–drawing groans and boos from the Crisler Center crowd–MSU was able to retake their lead and go five points in front entering the final period.

“We needed to crank it up, we needed a little something on our side,” said coach Robyn Fralick.

Holding a nine-point lead with under five minutes to play, MSU looked to have the game in hand. But no lead was truly safe in this game, and Michigan stormed right back. Down seven, sophomore forward Chyra Evans drew a foul by junior guard Jocelyn Tate on a lay-up to get the and-1. It was Tate’s fifth foul, and as she walked off the floor she was also assessed a technical foul, giving Michigan two more free throws. Evans converted the and-1, while Phelia hit both free throws from the technical to make it a two-point game.

The Wolverines couldn’t capitalize though, missing five shots and two free throws over the final two and a half minutes, until Joiner hit the dagger two-point jumper with 10 seconds to play, giving the Spartans the 70-66 win.

It was a great, hard-fought team win for MSU, which had four players in double figures as the Spartans got the sweep over their rivals they wanted and the win they needed as they look forward to a potential tournament run with four regular season games left.

For the Wolverines, Sunday’s game was a tough one to swallow. A close game they had chances to win down the stretch, but just couldn’t get the shots to fall when it mattered. Already sitting on the bubble, they’ll likely need to win the rest of their games if they have any hope of making the NCAA Tournament.

Sunday’s contest had the added bonus for the Spartans in that it marked the first time both the men’s and women’s basketball teams swept Michigan since 2019, Ozment’s freshman year, when both teams went a combined 5-0 over their rivals.

“To start my career [with a sweep over Michigan] and to end it like that, that’s really special,” Ozment said.

The Spartans will continue their road trip against Purdue on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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