Scouting report: Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals

Michigan State won the only regular season matchup in the 2020-21 campaign, beating Iowa, 86-82.


Kate Heston

The University of Iowa women’s basketball team meets for a time out during a second round game of the Big 10 women’s basketball tournament. Iowa, ranked #6, took on #11 Purdue in Indianapolis at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse Wednesday night. The Hawkeyes beat the Boilermakers, 83-72, advancing the Hawks to take on Rutgers Thursday night in the Big 10 quarterfinals.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS – In an upset-heavy day at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday night at the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinals, both No. 6 seeded Iowa and No. 7 seeded Michigan State overtook their higher-seeded foes to earn a place in the semifinals.

Now, the No. 6 and No. 7 seed will compete to earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship game.

Iowa will be taking on a Michigan State team that loves to rally late — both of the Spartans’ wins in the Big Ten Tournament have come after halftime deficits.

In the Spartans’ second round game against No. 10 seed Penn State on Wednesday, Michigan State rallied from an eight-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Nittany Lions, 75-66.

The come-from-behind nature of the Spartans was more impressive on Thursday, as they overtook No. 2 seed Indiana, 69-61, after being down, 34-26, at halftime. Michigan State came out hot in the second half against Indiana, scoring nine straight points to take the lead before Indiana could put a shot in the basket.

Iowa’s freshman point guard Caitlin Clark has also become a late-night force in the Big Ten Tournament. In the first half against Rutgers Wednesday night, Clark only accounted for seven points. But she finished the night with a double-double of 21 points and 10 assists.

The Hawkeyes and the Spartans only met once in the regular season, in East Lansing, on Dec. 12. Iowa did not hold a lead throughout the entirety of its first Big Ten game of the season, and although the Hawkeyes made an effort, they were not able to battle back from a 19-point deficit, falling, 86-82.

In December, the Spartans took free rein of the 3-point line, attempting 30 from downtown as Iowa couldn’t protect the perimeter. Michigan State was also held Iowa to just 4-of-20 shooting from the 3-point line, and Clark held all four of the shots.

A large part of Michigan State’s success can be attributed to Nia Clouden — the junior guard put up 21 points and tallied six assists in the win over Iowa in December. Clouden was the difference-maker in the quarterfinal game of the Big Ten Tournament, putting up 30 of the Spartans’ 69 points.

Sophomore guard Alyza Winston is also an asset for the Spartans. She put up 25 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the 3-point line against Iowa in December and was the second leading scorer for the Spartans on Thursday, putting up 13 points.

The Spartans head coach is Suzy Merchant, who is in her 14th year with Michigan State. Merchant holds a 15-13 overall record in the Big Ten Tournament, good for sixth all-time in tournament career coaching wins.

If Michigan State wins on Friday, it will mark the lowest seed since 2008 to make the Big Ten Championship game. If Iowa wins, it will be the second straight year that a No. 6 seed makes it to the championship, after No. 6 Ohio State accomplished the feat in the 2020 Big Ten Tournament

Tipoff between Iowa and Michigan State will be at approximately 3:30 p.m. CST. The game will be televised on FS2.

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