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Freshmen Trio Dominate As MSU Cruises Past Virginia

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Suzy Merchant (PHOTO:  MSU SID)

Suzy Merchant (PHOTO: MSU SID)

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The freshmen trio of Kayla BellesNia Clouden and Tory Ozment all scored in double figures as the Michigan State women's basketball team stopped Virginia, 91-66 in the ACC/B1G Challenge Wednesday at the Breslin Center.

This was the first win for the Spartans in the ACC/B1G Challenge since 2014, when MSU came-from behind to beat Georgia Tech in overtime, 79-73. This was also the largest margin of victory in a Challenge game for MSU. With the win, Michigan State improved to 5-1 this season, while Virginia falls to 2-5.

Senior center Jenna Allen led all scorers with a season-high 21 points to go along with a career-high four steals and seven rebounds. Clouden had the Spartans' first double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 assists. Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon was just shy of a double-double with 14 points and nine assists. Ozment and Belles had season highs with 19 and 12 points, respectively.

The Cavaliers were led by Jocelyn Willoughby who had 16 points and 11 boards.

The game started with a pair of steals and easy buckets for Clouden, as MSU jumped out to a 4-0 lead early in the first quarter. Clouden went on to score the first six points of the game. A 6-0 run gave MSU its first double-digit lead of the game 12-2 with 6:44 left in the first period. Allen's long-range three stretched the Spartan advantage to 20-4 with under three minutes remaining. MSU ended the first quarter with a 25-4 lead, at the four points allowed in the first quarter were the fewest this season.

In the second quarter, the Cavaliers used a 6-0 run to trim the Spartan advantage to 31-12. Michigan State was solid from long range in the second quarter going 2-for-4. Allen ended the first half with 13 points to lead all scorers. The Spartans forced 14 turnovers in the first half, taking a 46-26 lead into the locker room.

Virginia came out strong in the second half, scoring eight of the first 12 points of the third period, cutting the MSU lead to 50-34. The Spartan offense re-gained its momentum, re-taking a 20-point advantage after a McCutcheon trey to make the score 64-43.

In the final stanza, the Spartans closed strong, out-scoring the Cavaliers, 24-17. Six different Spartans scored led by seven points from Belles off the bench. Michigan State took its biggest lead of the game, 85-55 after a pair of Clouden free throws. Ozment added an efficient five points, three rebounds, one steal and one assist in 10 minutes of action.

MSU will conclude its two-game homestand against Texas Southern on Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m.

Postgame Notes vs. Virginia
• The four points allowed in the first quarter was the fewest this season. The fewest points MSU has allowed in a first quarter ever wass two against Davidson on Nov. 11, 2-16.

• McCutcheon has now started 71 games for MSU, missing just one game in her Spartan career last season. Allen has now played in 103 games at Michigan State and has started 34.

• Michigan State played in the 12th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge . . . Overall, the Spartans leveled their ledger at 6-6 in the ACC/B1G Challenge. Wednesday was the first time that MSU and Virginia have met in the Challenge.

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• MSU's 25-point margin of victory was the Spartans' largest margin victory in the ACC/B1G Challenge . . . It was also Michigan State's second-largest scoring margin of the season.

• The Spartans' 91 points was the second time scoring over 90 points this season and the second-highest scoring output of the season behind 99 in the season-opening victory over Bowling Green on Nov. 6 (99-69).

• Wednesday was only the second meeting between the Spartans and Cavaliers, and both times the winning team scored 91 points, as Virginia won the only other meeting, 91-74, in Miami, Florida in 1990.

• Michigan State swiped 13 steals Wednesday night, marking the second-straight game and fifth time in the six games this season that the Spartans have swiped double-digit steals . . . the 13 steals is the second-most by the Spartans before 15 vs. Kennesaw State (Nov. 23) and Wright State (Nov. 18).

• MSU dished out a season-high 27 assists, topping the previous season-best of 25 helpers in the season-opener . . . it was the third time in the six games that the Spartans had 20+ assists, along with 21 vs. Wright State (Nov. 18).

• The Spartans tied a season low being whistled for only 13 fouls, matching 13 fouls in the season-opener vs. Bowling Green (Nov. 6).

• MSU's 25 first-quarter points was the most in the opening quarter by the Spartans this season . . . it was also the second-straight game that Michigan State has scored 25 points in a quarter, netting 25 in the third stanza vs. Kennesaw State (Nov. 23) . . . it is also tied for the second-most in any quarter, behind the 29 points in the third and fourth quarters against Bowling Green (Nov. 6) . . . the Spartans also scored 25 points in the second quarter vs. Wright State (Nov. 18) and third quarter vs. Kennesaw State (Nov. 23).

• Wednesday was the third time this season that five Spartans have scored in double-figures, joining the season-opener vs. Bowling Green (Nov. 6) and East T.ennessee State (Nov. 11).

• Freshman guard Nia Clouden posted the first double-double of her Spartan career with a career-high 11 assists to go with 10 points . . . the 11 assists tied for the 12th-best in MSU single-game history . . . the 10 points marked Clouden's fifth double-digit scoring outing in the six games this season.

• Senior forward Jenna Allen netted a season-high with 21 points . . . it was Allen's second career 20+ scoring outing behind her career-best 28 points vs. Notre Dame on Dec. 6, 2017 . . . Allen's 21 points tied junior teammate Shay Colley for the most scored by a Spartan this season . . . Allen also swiped a career-high four steals.

• Freshman guard Tory Ozment netted a season-high 19 points, for her second double-figure game of the season, both coming in the last two games.

• Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon netted a season-high tying four 3-pointers, marking the third time this season that she has made four treys, lasing doing so vs. NC State (Nov. 22) . . . McCutcheon has made multi 3-pointers in five of the six games . . . with 14 points Wednesday, McCutcheon has posted double-figures in four of the six games.

• Freshman forward Kayla Belles tallied a season-high 12 points and seven rebounds in just 13 minutes of action, which is also a season-high . . . Belles was seeing action in just her second game in a Spartan uniform.

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