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Freshmen Lead MSU Past Kennesaw State at Cancun Challenge

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Suzy Merchant (PHOTO:  MSU SID)

Suzy Merchant (PHOTO: MSU SID)

CANCUN, Mexico - Behind career highs from freshmen Nia Clouden and Tory Ozment, the Michigan State women's basketball closed out the Cancun Challenge with a dominating 75-51 win over Kennesaw State Friday night.

With the win, Michigan State improved to 4-1 on the season, while Kennesaw State dropped to 2-5.

Clouden led MSU with a career-high 18 points to go along with six assists and two steals. Fellow freshman Ozment also had career high with 15 points, three steals and four rebounds. Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon had only three points, but added five assists and tied a career high with five steals. As a team, the Spartan defense was solid, tying a season high with 15 steals.

The Owls were led Alexis Poole who had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

The Spartans started the game with a quick 8-0 run, leading to a KSU timeout with 8:39 left in the first quarter. Michigan State went on to score the first 15 points of the game before a pair of free throws by Alexis Hoover. The Owls registered their first field goal with 3:23 left in the first quarter. KSU bounced back with a 6-0 stretch to cut the lead to 20-8.

In the second quarter, MSU went over three minutes without scoring, before a Clouden steal and score stopped the cold spell. Late in the quarter, the Spartans were once again fueled by Clouden, as MSU ended the half scoring 11-straight points. The Spartan defense was stout in the second period, holding the Owls to six points.

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Michigan State came out strong in the third quarter with sophomore forward Sidney Cooks scoring the first seven points. MSU took its first 20-point lead after a Clouden jumper, 39-19 with 9:05 left in the period. After a steal by freshman forward Kayla Belles, who made her Spartan debut, MSU took its biggest lead of the period, 55-27, with a bucket by redshirt-junior forward Victoria Gaines.

Senior center Jenna Allen gave Michigan State a 35-point lead, which was its largest lead of the game, 64-29 with 9:48, remaining in the game. The Spartans were able to play 11 of the 12 players on the roster with 10 different players scoring.

MSU will return home to host Virginia on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

Postgame Notes vs. Kennesaw State
• Michigan State was able to spread the wealth against Kennesaw State with 11 players seeing the court. Freshman forward Kayla Belles made her Spartan debut with two points, one block and one steal. All three freshman (Clouden, Belles and Ozment) along with redshirt-freshman guard Claire Hendrickson scored.

• As a team, the Spartan defense was solid, tying a season high with 15 steals. Michigan State also had 15 steals against Wright State on Nov. 18. The Spartans have reached double-digits in steals in four of five games this season.

• MSU is now 4-2 all time in the Cancun Challenge (formerly know as the Caribbean Classic). In 2011, the Spartans defeated both Northern Illinois and Kansas State. In 2007, the Spartans defeated Colorado State and fell to Pittsburgh.

• Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon's streak of 16-consecutive game with multiple 3-pointers 38 career games with multi treys came to an end, as she played a season-low 25 minutes.

• McCutcheon has now started 70 games for MSU, missing just one game in her Spartan career last season. Allen has now played in 102 games at Michigan State and has started 33.

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