The Michigan State women’s basketball team lost its third Big Ten conference opener in a row in an 80-74 loss to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The Spartans for the first time this year struggled to find and make shots from the three-point area and they were dominated in the rebound battle in their second loss of the season.
Graduate student guard Julia Ayrault beat out Alexis Markowski and won the tip-off for the Spartans. Ayrault then found a cutting Jocelyn Tate who scored the night’s first points for either team.
The Cornhusker immediately responded with a quick 7-0 run sparked by two quick baskets inside and a three-pointer. MSU had an unusually slow start to the game, starting 1-6 from the field, but after five minutes of slow play, the Spartans found their groove and both teams began to go back and forth.
The Spartans quickly cleaned up the early poor shooting inside and even found some early success from the three-point line. However, the same could be said for the Cornhuskers as both teams continued to exchange the first-quarter lead.
Junior guard Jocelyn Tate looked as if she had saved the first-quarter lead after blocking a last-second attempt from Nebraska, but senior guard Kendall Coley quickly recovered the shot and hit the buzzer-beater to end off the first quarter with a 21-19 Cornhusker lead.
The momentum stayed with the Cornhuskers to start the second quarter as they scored seven straight unanswered points. Graduate guard Darian White displayed some of her finishing skills after scoring on multiple tries down-low.
Ayrault answered back for the Spartans on a second-chance shot to keep the Nebraska lead within the Spartan’s grasp. Junior guard DeeDee Hagemann took advantage of the slow transition defense from the Cornhuskers using her speed to blow by the entire defense for a nice finger-roll layup.
Just as the Spartans began to close in on the lead, back-to-back Cornhusker threes and a layup later, they found themselves down seven points with just over four minutes left in the half.
The Spartans continued to keep up with the Cornhuskers on most fronts, but the three-pointer was the big difference between the two teams. Up until about two minutes before the second quarter ended the Spartans had been shooting under 25% from three.
The second quarter ended in nearly the same fashion as the first in that the Spartans nearly succeeded in stopping a last-second shot attempt by the Cornhuskers, but a late foul call changed that completely. With 1.4 second left Nebraska was granted an inbound play and Coley once again hit another buzzer-beater that sent the Spartans into the locker room down 39-43.
It was Nebraska that got on the board first after another strong finish from Potts inside the paint. Although the Spartans had nearly completely nullified the post-presence of junior center/forward Alexis Markowski, the Spartans had still let in over 20 points in the paint midway through the third quarter.
Head coach Robyn Fralick decided to start the full-court press early in the third quarter and it caught the Cornhuskers completely off guard. After forcing three turnovers in less than five minutes the Spartans had once again cut the Nebraska lead to six points.
Unfortunately, Nebraska had once again found the grove that they had in the second quarter, and every time MSU nearly regained a lead the Cornhuskers would respond with either a three-pointer or a couple of layups to regain their lead.
The Cornhuskers finished the third quarter in the way that the Spartans had been hoping to all game after the team was able to block a last-second shot from sophomore Abbey Kimball.
MSU began to fall behind in the fourth quarter after the team continued to struggle to find offensive opportunities early on around the perimeter. While they were fighting for every basket on the inside, the Spartans continued to be unsuccessful from anywhere else on the court.
While the Spartans began to struggle down the stretch, Nebraska’s Markowski was just starting to heat up. After going scoreless and only having three rebounds in two quarters, Markowski quickly recovered with 9 points and 14 rebounds only halfway through the fourth.
A late run by the Spartans, fueled by sophomore Theryn Hallock nearly warranted a comeback for the green and white, but ultimately, the inside play and rebounding from the Cornhuskers on both sides of the basketball proved to be too much for the Spartans.
Michigan State will take a week off as they get prepared to face off against Central Michigan University next weekend on Sunday, Dec. 17. Tip-off for that game is set for 2 p.m.
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