Inside the numbers: How Michigan State took down Central Michigan
Shay Colley had a mismatch out on the right wing as she tip-toed towards the 3-point line nearing 10 seconds left in regulation.
The Chippewas' sophomore forward Kyra Bussell stands at 6-foot-1. Colley, the Spartans redshirt junior guard, is 5-foot-9 and is known for her slashing ability.
In matter of a half-second, Colley jumped forward with her right foot towards the basket, leaving minimal room for error between the baseline and inbounds.
CMU senior guard Presley Hudson, who had just downed a step-back triple of her own to give the Chippewas the lead with 20 seconds remaining the play before, picked up on Colley's quick move to the hoop.
As Colley scampered past Bussel on her first step, Hudson came over for the help-side defense. Hudson propelled her body into the air with her hand up attempting to block a shot. Colley's feet left the hardwood as she dove under Hudson's jump with Bussel bearing down her back. She flipped the ball off her hand onto the glass and it fell through the net.
Cool, calm and collected. Colley made it look easy.
"We were looking for a bucket to win the game and coach trusted me with that last play," Colley said. "I'm just happy to have my teammates and coaching staff pushing me."
That is the play everyone will remember when looking back at No. 9 Michigan State's (21-11) 88-87 victory over No. 8 Central Michigan (25-8) in the NCAA Tournament first round.
However, in a game where the difference was a single point, there were other key factors that led the Spartans to victory over the Chippewas on March 23 at the Joyce Center.
First half 3-pointers
The Chippewas were playing behind for a majority of the afternoon thanks to the 3-point shooting the Spartans put together in the first 20 minutes.
In total, MSU went 5-of-9 (55.5 percent) from beyond the arc in the first half. The first three makes came from the MSU's junior guard Tayrn McCutcheon.
She dropped three consecutive 3-pointers on CMU in the games opening seven minutes of action. It propelled the Spartans to a 21-11 advantage.
CMU put together a 7-0 run over the final 1:30 of the first quarter, trimming the Spartan lead to five points. Without those early triples from McCutcheon, MSU would've squandered its first frame advantage.
The Spartans would add two more triples in the half and own a 43-40 lead heading into the locker room.
Second chance points
Every time that CMU began to put together a run that looked like it could push it past MSU, the Spartans had an answer.
Most of the time, that answer was offensive rebounds and second chance points.
In the first half alone, the Spartans corralled 10 boards off the offensive glass and turned them into 13 points. The Chippewas could only muster up four offensive rebounds and four second chance points.
For the game, MSU out-rebounded the Chippewas 13-12 on the offensive glass (33-30 overall in rebounds). While CMU gave more of a fight in the second half to even up the numbers, MSU outscored CMU 22-17 in second chance points.
For MSU head coach Suzy Merchant, that was a battle she wanted to win coming into the contest.
"We really worked pretty hard at getting the ball inside and getting through any doubles because we've seen when (CMU) plays bigger teams they will double," Merchant said. "Down the stretch we switched to another set that really made it difficult for them to double. They would have to leave a player all alone down on the block.
"Essentially, it was like putting a player in jail a little bit."
In a one-point difference for the final score, the Spartans five extra points on extra offensive possessions helped them move on to the NCAA Tournament second round.
Free throw perfection
On top of getting second chance points often, the Spartans didn't miss when they got sent to the line for free ones.
MSU went a perfect 11-of-11 from the charity stripe against CMU. The Chippewas went 7-of-8 but the Spartans extra three attempts loomed large in a tight finish.
It was freshman guard Nia Clouden stepping up into the spotlight to lead MSU with a perfect 5-of-5 on free throws. Senior forward Jenna Allen netted four free throws as well.