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Spartans upset Hawkeyes in Big Ten opener

The Big Ten opener, as well a top 25 match-up, was another big game for the Spartans in their Sunday afternoon matchup. 

The No. 21 Michigan State Spartans upset the #16 Iowa Hawkeyes, 84-70. 

“It was really special. I was actually a little nervous this game, unlike the other ones,” freshman guard Nia Clouden said. “My first Big Ten game and Iowa’s pretty good. We didn’t start as fast as we wanted to …” 

First quarter action started off with a 12-0 run from the Hawkeyes but a pair of threes from Jenna Allen and Shay Colley, lead to a kickstart in the Spartan’s scoring. The Spartans kept up with the fast pace the Hawkeyes set, to finish the first quarter in a tie at 23. The Spartans shot 41.7 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from behind the arch. 

“Iowa’s a really really good team and obviously they are ranked higher than we’re ranked and we beat Oregon and we were four points away from beating a top ten team in the country,” coach Suzy Merchant said.

The second quarter was plagued by fouls for the Spartans resulting in a 7-0 run for the Hawkeyes. Half time score, 37-43 in favor of Iowa. Jenna Allen lead the Spartans with 12 points and seven rebounds followed by Nia Clouden’s 10 points. Megan Gustafson lead the Hawkeyes with 21 points and seven rebounds. 

The Spartans shot 36.5 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line.  

“(Gustafson) is tough because when you throw it in there, one on one she’s hard to stop,” Merchant said. 

Clouden scored the Spartans first five points to start the third quarter, giving MSU the first lead since leading 2-0, 45-43. Clouden shattered her previous career high of 18 points during the third quarter. 

“Her dynamic out there is pretty unique,” Merchant said. “It’s something we haven’t really had in awhile.” 

Merchant also talked about the adjustments made at half time when it came to guarding Gustafson. 

“We decided to do was give it a little more shot play, a little bit stronger on that side,” Merchant said. “Every now and then maybe send in someone, if we were close, that if she was off the block close it.” 

An Allen layup highlighted the fourth quarter, as the Spartans got their first double digit lead of the day. The rest of the quarter, the Spartans dominated the Hawkeyes. 

“This offseason we put in so much work on and off the court, just to get better and better together, offensively and defensively.” Allen said. “I think we believe in each other and believe in ourselves and that’s one thing you have to have to be pretty good. You have to believe in yourself, no one else in the country thought we would be any good this year and I’m just so proud of this team for coming together and playing together. It’s really special.”  

The Spartans were lead by a new career high for Clouden, with 27 points, followed by 20 points from Allen. The Spartans shot 45.2 percent form the field, 33.3 percent from behind the arch and 76.5 percent from the free throw line to seal the deal for the upset. 

Merchant is excited about this win, but with the Spartans being on the road for the next two games. 

“…we need to keep focus on ourselves and just grind out and just kinda continue to being game,” Merchant said.  

The Spartans will travel to Northwestern at 8 p.m on Jan 3 streaming on BigTen Plus. 

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