INDIANAPOLIS -- The postseason journey for the Michigan State women’s basketball team got started on the right note. Behind a balanced effort, the No. 9-seeded Spartans picked up a 68-52 victory over No. 8 seed Northwestern in a Big Ten tournament second-round contest at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. MSU’s four All-Big Ten selections each scored in double figures to lead the charge for the Spartans, who avenged their January loss to Northwestern to advance to face top seed Maryland in a quarterfinal at noon Friday. Shay Colley had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead the Spartans, who boosted their NCAA tournament resume by securing their 10th season with at least 20 wins under the direction of 12th-year coach Suzy Merchant. Nia Clouden and Jenna Allen each scored 11 points and Taryn McCutcheon added 10 points for MSU, which won away from the Breslin Center for the first time since a Jan. 27 victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor. MSU (20-10) took control in the middle stages of the third quarter. Northwestern had taken a 40-39 lead by starting the quarter on an 8-0 run. But following a timeout, the Spartans broke the game open with a 24-4 spurt that included 16 unanswered points after Wildcat star Pallas Kunaiya-Akpanah picked up a third foul. "I thought the kids came out and did a really good job (out of that timeout)," Merchant said. "It's hard to design exactly what you want because they're in the zone. "You can't do that against the zone necessarily. You can kind of see what you're looking for. But it does take a collective effort. So to be able to break that mold a little bit of us kind of having a lull in scoring against the zone I thought was a real positive step forward." Now the attention for the Spartans is on Big Ten regular-season champion and No. 8-ranked Maryland, who they beat in East Lansing in mid-January. "I thought our kids did a great job (in that game)," Merchant said. "Everything was clicking on all cylinders. We're just going to have to continue to move forward. We've
had some ups and downs. And Maryland is a heck of a team. They're defending Big Ten champions that we have to play, so it's not going to be easy, and I'm sure they're looking forward to the battle tomorrow."