State hoops: Nia Clouden, carrying depleted MSU, joins state’s exclusive 50-point club
This is Nia Clouden's team.
And frankly, with so many players out it has to be. Season-ending injuries, the transfer portal and nagging aliments have left the Michigan State women's basketball team severely short-handed as Big Ten gets set to reboot after the holiday.
Clouden, the senior guard, is doing her best to carry the load, which she did with a historic 50-point effort in an 85-84 double-overtime loss to Florida Gulf Coast in West Palm Beach last week. Clouden became the first player to score 50 in Division I this season, and the third player to score 50 in the Big Ten, matching Michigan's Naz Hillmon, who did it last season (also in a loss, to Ohio State).
The game by Clouden set not only the MSU program record, but also matched the best showing in MSU history — men or women. Terry Furlow scored 50 for the men against Iowa on Jan. 5, 1976. The previous best for the women was 42, by eventual All-American Tori Jankoska, against Ohio State on Jan. 17, 2017.
"It definitely feels really good to be in some great company," Clouden said after the game against Florida Gulf Coast. "Just to be in the same category as those great players who have gone on to do great things, it's just really awesome.
"I don't think I've had that many points ever, or anywhere close."
Clouden became the seventh player — male or female — to score 50 in a game for a Division I school in Michigan, joining Furlow and Hillmon, CMU's Tommie Johnson (53), David Webber (50) and Marcus Keene (50), and Eastern Michigan's Raven Lee (50).
Here are the single-game record-holders for all of the state's DI programs:
►MSU men: Furlow, 50
►MSU women: Clouden, 50
►UM men: Rudy Tomjanovich and Cazzie Russell, 48
►UM women: Hillmon, 50
►Oakland men: Travis Bader, 47
►Oakland women: Katie Wolfe, 41
►Detroit Mercy men: Archie Tullos, 49
►Detroit Mercy women: Shareta Brown, 43
►EMU men: Lee, 50
►EMU women: Danielle Minott, 44
►WMU men: Gene Ford, 46
►WMU women: Carrie Moore, 41
►CMU men: Johnson, 53
►CMU women: Presley Hudson, 43
(Note: For Oakland, those are the record-holders since the program became Division I).
Clouden followed the 50-point game (in which she played 46 of a possible 50 minutes) with 22 more the following day, in a 74-54 loss to West Virginia that dropped the Spartans' record to 7-6. She averages 21.8 points. Only one other active player, freshman Matilda Ekh, is averaging double digits (10.0).
"Nia was exceptional," Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant said. "We gotta get more from everybody else. ... I know Nia played well in this tournament, but other people had opportunities to make layups and hit open shots and we need them to be able to do that."
Michigan State has made 10 of a possible 13 NCAA Tournaments under Merchant, but might have to grind for this one. The season resumes Dec. 30 at home against Nebraska.
Michigan, 11-1 after a 74-68 win over No. 5 Baylor and ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press for the first time ever, returns Friday at home against Ohio State. The win over Baylor was UM's first over a top-five team.
►The annual Michigan State-Oakland men's game always is a highlight of the schedule, and Tuesday's 90-78 win by MSU at Little Caesars Arena lived up to the billing. Nearly 17,000 were in attendance. The lone downside was the TV situation. ESPN passed on the game because of the NHL and bowl season, and the Horizon League wouldn't allow the game to be moved to another network like Fox or, by proxy, the Big Ten Network. So the game was shown on TV20, only available in the Metro Detroit market, and on ESPN+, which requires a paid subscription.
That meant a few more bucks for Oakland — which netted some $50,000 for the "home" game — but fewer eyeballs and exposure. Timing was a killer. By the time the NHL went on pause because of COVID, it was too late to change.
►The Friday, Jan. 7, game between Detroit Mercy and Milwaukee at Calihan Hall has been picked up by ESPN2. The game features two mid-major stars with the Titans' Antoine Davis, who is closing in on the program's career scoring record, and the Panthers' Patrick Baldwin Jr.
►No games of the week this week, with all the state teams on holiday break.
State power rankings
1. Michigan State (10-2)
2. Michigan (7-4)
3. Oakland (7-4)
4. Detroit Mercy (4-7)
5. Eastern Michigan (5-6)
6. Western Michigan (4-7)
7. Central Michigan (1-10)
1. Michigan (11-1)
2. Michigan State (7-6)
3. Western Michigan (6-3)
4. Oakland (4-7)
5. Eastern Michigan (3-4)
6. Central Michigan (2-7)
7. Detroit Mercy (0-11)