Behind Enemy Lines: Michigan State beat writer Maisy Nielsen talks CMU-MSU in NCAA Tournament

Michigan State center Jenna Allen smiles after scoring 27 points in an 88-82 victory against No. 3 Oregon on Dec. 9. (Photo Credit: Michigan State Athletics)

Central Michigan Life's Evan Petzold spoke with Michigan State beat writer Maisy Nielsen from The State News to preview CMU's 1 p.m. March 23 NCAA Tournament first round game against MSU.

The Spartans finished the 2018-19 season with a 20-11 overall and 9-9 Big Ten Conference record. The Chippewas were 25-7 overall and 15-3 in the Mid-American Conference.

Nielsen, a student journalist at Michigan State, discussed the NCAA Tournament matchup, what makes the Spartans special and where coach Suzy Merchant has work to do in this exclusive Q&A.

Central Michigan Life: What makes this Michigan State team a tough opponent?

Maisy Nielsen: "They are a good perimeter shooting team, but they have struggled all season in the third quarter. They've gotten in a slump where they only score six points. The other team just comes back and kills them. As long as Jenna's going strong underneath the basket, I think they'll do great."

CM-Life: Besides looking directly at the stat sheet, who stands out for the Spartans?

Nielsen: "Taryn McCutcheon is our little point guard. She's good behind the arc, and she is really fast and quick. Another standout is Shay Colley. She is another guard who is fast, quick and is not afraid to drive to the basket, despite being small."

CM-Life: What happened to Michigan State down the stretch, as it lost six of 10 to end the season?

Nielsen: "They obviously struggled on the road and didn't have the same mentality as when they were going into the regular season. They also struggle a lot in the third quarter consistently. Coach Suzy Merchant is trying to change that, but I have yet to see results."

CM-Life: What's Michigan State's mentality going into the first round game? Do the Spartans see it as a rivalry?

Nielsen: "I know from our side, Jenna Allen was really looking forward to this matchup because she's from Indiana, and they're playing in South Bend. She's excited to play in her home state so her family can come see her. They are going to try to pull off the win for coach because (CMU) is her alma mater. Coach said she doesn't think it's any different from a normal team because every game she prepares like that."

CM-Life: What does Michigan State have to do to beat Central Michigan?

Nielsen: "They're going to have to keep their mentality up because they've struggled with that after halftime. I think once that happens, Jenna will lead them in and it will be a good game."

CM-Life: Final score prediction? 

Nielsen: Central Michigan 79, Michigan State 64