Sunday's college basketball: MSU's Merchant out 2 games with COVID-19; Spartans win in her absence

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Michigan State women's basketball team has been short-handed all season, on the court.

On Sunday, the Spartans also were without their head coach, Suzy Merchant, who is sidelined with COVID-19. Michigan State responded with 65-46 home victory over Northwestern, snapping a two-game losing skid.

Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant

Senior guard Nia Clouden led the Spartans (9-8, 3-3 Big Ten) with 19 points and three steals, and freshman guard Matilda Ekh added 18 points. Junior forward Taiyier Parks had 10 points and eight rebounds.

It marked the Spartans' first victory of the new year; they had lost two straight and had a game at Northwestern postponed by COVID-19 issues with the Wildcats (11-5, 3-2).

Merchant had managed to dodge a bout with COVID-19 until last week, and is experiencing mild symptoms. She also will miss Wednesday's game at Indiana, the university announced.

Associate head coach Dean Lockwood, in his third year on Mechant's staff, will serve as the interim head coach in her absence.

Earlier this season, Merchant, 52, earned her 300th win at Michigan State, and 500th as a head coach.

Big Ten men

(At) No. 16 Ohio State 61, Penn State 56: E.J. Liddell scored 19 and Ohio State (11-4, 5-2 Big Ten) won despite shooting just 38.6% overall and going the final 5:07 without a basket.

The Nittany Lions (8-7, 3-4) trimmed multiple 10-point deficits in the second half and pulled within four with seven seconds to go.

Iowa 81, (at) Minnesota 71: Sophomore Keegan Murray had 25 points and 10 rebounds and Iowa withstood a furious comeback by shorthanded Minnesota. Murray sank 11 of 17 shots in notching his fourth double-double of the season for the Hawkeyes (13-4, 3-3 Big Ten Conference). Jordan Bohannon, Patrick McCaffery and Filip Rebraca each scored 12 for Iowa, and Rebraca added 12 rebounds for his first double-double. The Gophers are 10-5, 1-5.

Top 25

(At) No. 14 Villanova 82, Butler 42: Collin Gillespie hit five 3-pointers and scored 17, and Justin Moore scored 15 to lead Villanova to its sixth straight win. The Wildcats (13-4, 6-1 Big East) never let Butler get comfortable. Butler is 9-7, 2-3.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

Associated Press contributed.