Late Comeback Falls Short Against No. 13 NC State

Michigan State Women's Basketball (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
Michigan State Women's Basketball (PHOTO: MSU SID)

CANCUN, Mexico - Despite being down double-digits several times, the Michigan State women's basketball team showed fight, falling to No. 13 NC State, 78-74, in the opening game of the Cancun Challenge on Thursday. This is the 14th annual Cancun Challenge and the third time that the Spartans have played in it.

Michigan State suffers its first loss of the season, falling to 3-1 this season, while the Wolfpack improve to 5-0.

For the fourth-straight game, MSU had at least four players in double figures. Redshirt-junior Shay Colley led the Spartans with her second-straight 20-point game with 20 points and seven rebounds. Redshirt-junior forward Victoria Gaines had a season-high with 15 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Junior Taryn McCutcheon continued her sharp shooting with 16 points, while senior center Jenna Allen added 11.

The Wolfpack were led by 17 points and 12 rebounds from Kiara Leslie. Grace Hunter also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards.

The teams traded baskets and fouls early on as MSU took an early 12-11 lead after a layup by Gaines at the first media timeout. The Wolfpack jumped out to a 18-12 lead after a jumper by Jones. A Spartan cold spell during a 9-0 run pushed the NCSU lead to 20-12. The quarter ended on a 14-0 run as NC State led the MSU 25-12.

The Spartans rebounded nicely with a 7-2 start to the second quarter. MSU eventually cut the lead to 30-27 after hard-fought layup by redshirt-sophomore forward Mardrekia Cook. With 3:54 left in the half, a long-range three from McCutcheon eliminated the deficit and tied the score 32-32. In a game full of streaks, it was NC State's turn with a 6-0 run to re-take a six-point lead, 38-32. The teams entered the locker room with the Wolfpack leading, 42-36.

In the third quarter, the Spartans were able to cut it to 52-50 after an Allen jumper, but the Wolfpack were able to stretch the lead back to 59-50 after a pair of Kayla Jones free throws. NC State was dominate in the paint in the third period with 10 points. All the third-quarter scoring for MSU came from Allen, Colley and McCutcheon.

The Spartans were hit by a cold spell early in the fourth quarter going 4:28 minutes without a basket, as NCSU took another double-digit lead, 66-55. MSU then hit back-to-back threes to cut the lead to 66-61. MSU used an 8-0 run to trim the Wolfpack advantage to 66-63 with under four to play. The Spartans fought until the end, getting as close two points, but NC State avoided the upset and held on.

Michigan State will conclude the Cancun Challenge taking on Kennesaw State on Friday, Nov. 23 at 9 p.m.

Postgame Notes vs. NC State
• For four-straight games, MSU has had at least four reach double digits. Redshirt-junior guard Shay Colley led the way once again with 20 points, followed by 16 from junior guard Taryn McCutcheon. Redshirt-junior forward Victoria Gaines had a season-high with 15, while senior center Jenna Allen added 11.

• Colley already has two 20-plus games this season with 21 against Wright State and 20 against NC State. Last season, she four 20-plus scoring games with a season-high 31 against South Dakota in the WNIT on March 22.

• MSU is now 3-2 all time in the Cancun Challenge (formerly know as the Caribbean Classic). In 2011, the Spartans defeated both Northern Illinois and Kansas State. In 2007, the Spartans defeated Colorado State and fell to Pittsburgh.

• Junior guard Taryn McCutcheon netted her 16th-consecutive game with multiple 3-pointers and her 38th career game with multi treys. With four 3-pointers made on Thursday, McCutcheon has had 10-straight games with three or more treys dating back to last season.

• McCutcheon has now started 69 games for MSU, missing just one game in her Spartan career last season. Allen has now played in 101 games at Michigan State and has started 32.

• Allen had a career-high four assists against the Wolfpack. Her previous high was three last time against Minnesota on Jan.17, 2018.

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