ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State guard Taryn McCutcheon was the shortest player on the court and proved height is just a number.
The 5-foot-5 McCutcheon had 14 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals to help the 23rd-ranked Spartans hold off Michigan for a 77-73 victory Sunday.
Even the Wolverines were impressed by the diminutive and dynamic player.
“I have a 5-foot-3 daughter and her dream is to play for me someday so when I see McCutcheon out there, it puts a smile on my face,” Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “This kid goes out and busts her butt and competes against kids probably twice her size each and every night.
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“She has a major skill, the ability to knock down 3-pointers from deep. I’m always impressed with her game and impressed with her fire.”
The junior from East Lansing, Michigan, is happy to be looked up to.
“I’m glad I can do that for people because there’s been a million people tell me I’m too small to play where I’m playing,” McCutcheon said. “I love being smaller than everyone else because people underestimate me — and I outwork them.
“I want those kids to know that if you outwork them, there’s no reason for you to ever think you’re not good enough.”
McCutcheon, who makes 44 percent of her shots beyond the arc to rank among the nation’s leaders, was 4 of 8 on 3-pointers against Michigan.
“She was really ready and prepared to put the team on her back,” coach Suzy Merchant said.
The Spartans (15-5, 5-4 Big Ten) have won six of seven against their rivals.
The Wolverines (12-9, 3-6) trailed by 15 points in the third quarter and by nine with 3:13 left. They rallied to cut the deficit to four on four occasions over the last 1:50 of the game, but Michigan State made enough free throws to seal the win.
“We play them again and that’s the only positive we have,” Michigan forward Hailey Brown said.
The rematch is Feb. 24 at Michigan State.
Jenna Allen and Shay Colley scored 14 points each and Victoria Gaines added 11 points for the Spartans, who have won three of four in conference for the first time this season.
Michigan freshman forward Naz Hillmon had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
“I don’t think we did much to stop Naz,” Merchant said. “She’s a very powerful kid. She’s one of the best rebounding bigs in the country.”
Amy Dilk and Deja Church had 13 points apiece, Hallie Thome scored 12 and Brown added 10 points for the Wolverines.
The game drew an announced crowd of 12,707, mostly wearing maize and blue.
“It’s really refreshing for our state when you come to these games to see all these people,” Merchant said. “Even if they’re in the wrong colors for me, it’s pretty cool.”
Michigan State: The Spartans won their first road game in the Big Ten this season after losing their first four away from the Breslin Center.
“I feel like we broke the curse,” McCutcheon said.
Michigan: Senior guard Nicole Munger left the game and did not return because of an injured right ankle with 3:46 left in the first quarter when the Wolverines were leading 16-10. Without her the rest of the quarter, Michigan was outscored 13-2.
“We weren’t able to respond right away and they went on a run,” Barnes Arico said. “We did regroup down the stretch to make it a good game, but we weren’t able to make the plays to be successful.”
Michigan State: Hosts Penn State (10-10, 3-6) on Thursday night.
Michigan: Hosts No. 17 Iowa (16-4, 7-2) on Thursday night.
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