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Freshman McCutcheon steering MSU women in postseason

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — If Michigan State makes the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, the Spartans will have a freshman point guard running the show in Taryn McCutcheon.

And, Michigan State senior All-Big Ten first-team guard Tori Jankoska feels confident with McCutcheon’s ability.

The No. 6 seeded Spartans (19-10, 9-7) entered Thursday night’s second-round Big Ten tournament game with No. 11 seed Wisconsin (9-21, 3-13) needing a win to boost their NCAA Tournament chances with the winner moving on to Friday night’s quarterfinal against No. 3 seed Michigan (22-8, 11-5).

“I love playing with Taryn, she has the confidence and she doesn’t let much get in her way,” said Jankoska of the 5-foot-5 McCutcheon, who earned a spot on the media’s All-Big Ten honorable mention list. “She’s undersized, but has made that one of her strengths. She’s gotten so much better already this year learning the game and being more experienced so it’s been a lot of fun playing with her.”

McCutcheon she earned a spot on The News Class A first-team after averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 assists for East Lansing High School. She grew up in West Virginia where she was named West Virginia Player of the Year her junior year in his school before playing senior year at East Lansing High.

Well, putting a true freshman to run the offense of one of the premier programs — Michigan State advanced to the Big Ten tournament title game last year — is a big challenge, but McCutcheon has delivered, averaging 7.2 points and a team-high 5.2 assists, including 12 assists in a 85-69 win over Minnesota Feb. 16 at the Breslin Center. She scored a season-high 15 points in consecutive games, a 93-74 win at Minnesota in late January followed by a 69-60 victory over Indiana.

Jankoska can do it all on the court for Michigan State

Michigan has an outstanding freshman of its own in 5-10 guard Kysre Gondrezick.

While Maryland guard Destiny Slocum (11.1 points, 6 assists) was voted Freshman of the Year by the league coaches, Gondrezick earned a spot on their All-Freshman Team after averaging 14.9 points and being named Big Ten Freshman of the Week six times.

Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico talked about signing Gondrezick, who had just days before scored a state-record 72 points in a district victory, at last year’s Big Ten tourney.

“I think when you have such a great scorer like Katelynn Flaherty on your team if you can add another scorer alongside of her, as well as a big inside with (6-5) Hallie Thome, I mean it’s just going to be tough to stop us defensively," said Barnes Arico a year ago.

Well, Barnes Arico was right and Gondrezick helped Michigan improve from a No. 8 seed to a No. 3 seed and more than likely its first NCAA Tournament appearance in four years later this month. Flaherty averaged 20 points, Thome, 15.2 points and 7.2 rebounds and the Wolverines won five more regular-season games than a year ago, resulting in Barnes Arico being voted Big Ten Coach of the Year by her peers.

Michigan is ninth nationally in field goal percentage (.473) and leads the nation in 3-point shooting (.395) with Gondrezick connecting on 69-of-157 long-range shots for 43.9 percent.