Shared Scoring Sparks #21 Spartan Women Past Illinois 77-60

Kara Fisher

Suzy Merchant (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
Suzy Merchant (PHOTO: MSU SID)

East Lansing, Mich. - Using a fast start and five players in double figures, the No. 23/21 Michigan State women's basketball team breezed past Illinois, 77-60, at the Breslin Center Thursday night. The Spartans have now won 14-straight games at home, dating back to last season.

With the win, Michigan State improves to 14-5 overall and evens out its Big Ten record at 4-4. Illinois falls to 9-10 overall and 1-7 in league contests. The Spartans have now won seven-straight games against the Illini dating back to 2014.

Michigan State was led by a quintet of players in double figures, including three players with 14 points in senior center Jenna Allen, redshirt-junior guard Shay Colley and junior guard Taryn McCutcheon. Sophomore guard Sidney Cooks also added 12 points and five rebounds in her first start of the season, while redshirt-junior forward Victoria Gaines scored 11 points off the bench.

Brandi Beasley was the leading scorer for Illinois with 15 points, as she reached the 1,000 point mark for her career. Cierra Rice added 10 points for the Illini. MSU held Illinois' leading scorer, Alex Wittinger to only seven points, well below her season average of 15.9 ppg. By holding Illinois to 60 points, MSU improved to 7-0 this season when holding the opponent to 60 or fewer points.

The Spartans scored the first six points of the game to take a quick lead out of the gates. Michigan State opened an advantage as large as 15 points after a Gaines fast-break trey that gave MSU the 22-7 advantage. McCutcheon led the way for MSU with six points in the first 10 minutes of action, as the Spartans finished the quarter with a 22-9 lead.

Illinois out-scored MSU 21-17 in the second quarter as the Spartan offense cooled down. Despite the solid scoring, the Illini were only able to trim MSU's lead into single digits after a Mackenzie Blazek free throw with 23 seconds remaining in the half made the score 39-30. At halftime, Michigan State was led by nine points from Allen and McCutcheon. The Spartans spread the ball around well with 14 assists in the first 20 minutes of action.

The Illini came out hot in the second half, trimming the lead to five points at 41-36 with 8:05 left in the quarter after a Beasley fast-break jump shot. From that point, MSU took control, getting the lead back to double figures after a pair of Colley free throws. The Spartans opened as big of a lead as 12 points in the third quarter, but couldn't quite pull away.

In the final 10 minutes, Michigan State finally started to create space, out-scoring Illinois, 20-13. Eleven different players saw the court in the fourth quarter. Colley was solid in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points.

Michigan State remains in the Great Lakes State to take on Michigan on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m. in a rivalry game that will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network.

Post-Game Notes vs. Illinois
• MSU's starting lineup of junior guards Shay Colley and Taryn McCutcheon, sophomore forward Sidney Cooks, freshman guard Nia Clouden and senior center Jenna Allen was the first time this season that the Spartans have started with that quintet, as Cooks was making her first start of the season ... It was Cooks' 23rd career start.

• McCutcheon made her 19th start of the season and 84th of her career ... Allen recorded her 19th start of the season and 46th of her career ... Colley started for the 12th time this season and made the 34th start of her career ... Clouden posted her 19th start of the season.

• Allen, McCutcheon and Clouden have started all 19 games this season and are joined by junior forward Victoria Gaines in playing all 19 games.

• Michigan State is now 11-0 this season at home this season and have a 14-game home winning streak dating back to last year.

• The Spartans beat the Illini for the seventh-straight time in the series as part improving their series lead to 43-28, including 24-9 in East Lansing ... MSU has held Illinois to 60 points or less in six of the last seven wins, allowing 65 on Feb. 25, 2015.

• MSU scored 77 points for the second home game in a row and marks the Spartans' 15th time in the 19 games topping the 70-point plateau this season . . . Michigan State has won 133 of its last 147 games when scoring at least 70 points and the Spartans are 150-21 under Coach Merchant when hanging 70 or more points on the scoreboard.

• By holding Illinois to 60 points, MSU improved to 7-0 this season when holding the opponent to 60 or fewer points.

• Michigan State snared 47 rebounds Thursday, which is its ninth 40+ rebounding outing of the season and MSU improves to 8-1 this season when registering 40 or more boards ... The 25 rebounds by Illinois was a season-low by an MSU opponent this season and the Spartans' +22 rebounding advantage was a season-high.

• The Spartans netted 11 3-pointers Thursday, their season-high in Big Ten action, and third game this season with double-digit triples behind season-high 15 in the season-opener vs. Bowling Green (Nov. 6) and 10 at Oakland (Dec. 5).

• MSU dished out 25 assists as a team, as the Spartans improved to 9-0 when they have 21 or more assists in a game and 14-0 when recording more assists than the opposition.

• Five Spartans posted double-figures, led by 14 points apiece by Allen, Colley and McCutcheon, followed by Cooks with 12 points and Gaines with 11 ... MSU is now 5-0 when five players score in double-digits ... It is the fourth-straight home game that MSU has had four or more players in double-figures.

• Cooks ended the game with 12 points, netting MSU's first points of the game on a 3-pointer, and the Spartans' first points of the second half on a layup ... It was her third double-figure scoring outing in a row and fifth in last six games as part of the 10th time this season and 25th of her career ... Cooks netted two 3-pointers for her second-straight multi 3-pointer game as part of the fourth of the season.

• Colley's 14 points was her fifth double-figure scoring outing in a row and sixth in last seven as past of 10th time this season and 24th of her career ... Colley also dished out seven assists, which is her high in Big Ten play and second-highest of the season behind nine helpers vs. Wright State (Nov. 18).

• Allen posted 14 points for her fifth double-digit game in last six outings and 15th of the season ... Now with 965 career points, Allen is just 35 points away from becoming the 27th player in Spartan women's basketball history to reach the 1,000 career points plateau ... With two 3-pointers Thursday, Allen has netted multiple triples for the second game in last three outings as part of the seventh of the season ... Allen was one rebound shy of a double-double with nine rebounds ... MSU is now 9-0 this season 15-3 for her career when Allen leads the Spartans in rebounding ... The nine rebounds pushes Allen over the 500 career rebounding mark, now with 502 career boards.

• McCutcheon netted 14 points for her fourth game in a row in double-figures as part 11th of the season and 31st of her career ... McCutcheon netted four 3-pointers for her season-high in a Big Ten game and her second-highest overall of the season as part of her 14th game this season with multi treys ... With four 3-pointers Thursday, McCutcheon has made at least one trey in 18 of the 19 games this season ... The junior guard also dished out three assists, giving her 434 career assists, maintaining her No. 5 spot on MSU's career assists list.

• With 11 points Thursday, Gaines notched double-figures for the first time in Big Ten action and the first since at Hartford (Dec. 16), as part of the sixth total time this season and 15th of her career ... Gaines also pulled down six rebounds for her 11th game with five or more boards.

• Clouden tied her career-high with 11 assists, which is her most in a Big Ten game, matching the 11 helpers vs. Virginia (Nov. 28) ... It was Clouden's eighth game with five or more assists, as she now has 87 assists on the season, moving up to No. 7 on MSU's freshman assists list.

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