Basketball

Taryn McCutcheon stands tall for MSU women's basketball

East Lansing grad Taryn McCutcheon, left, has averaged 15.0 points over her last two games for the Michigan State women's basketball team.

East Lansing grad Taryn McCutcheon, left, has averaged 15.0 points over her last two games for the Michigan State women’s basketball team.

EAST LANSING – The workload has been heavy.

And so have the demands on Taryn McCutcheon in her debut season of college basketball.

Through it all, the East Lansing graduate and 5-foot-5 freshman point guard has stood tall for a Michigan State women’s basketball team pushing toward another finish in the Big Ten’s top tier.

“That is a tough kid,” MSU interim coach Amaka Agugua said. “Taryn is just tough and she doesn’t even take any reps off in practice. That kid is a 40-minute (a game) kid. In practice she takes every rep and she wants to because she’s just too hungry to get better and help her teammates.”

McCutcheon’s work ethic and desire to constantly improve has helped her navigate the highs and lows of a season where she has started every game, played just under 32 minutes per night and been a primary ball handler for the Spartans (16-7, 6-5 Big Ten). And it also has resulted in McCutcheon finding her stride with the regular season in its final stages.

McCutcheon enters Thursday’s contest at Iowa coming off two of the best outings of her debut season. She has asserted herself more in recent games and matched a career-high with 15 points in each of the Spartans’ last two games – both victories.

Freshman Taryn McCutcheon has started all 23 games this season for the Spartans and is averaging 7.4 points and 5.1 assists.

Freshman Taryn McCutcheon has started all 23 games this season for the Spartans and is averaging 7.4 points and 5.1 assists.

“(It’s about) just helping the team,” said McCutcheon, who is averaging 7.4 points and 5.1 assists. “I know it’s rough when I’m not aggressive. Being aggressive doesn’t mean necessarily shooting, but being a threat to the defense so it gives more chances to my teammates. I just knew that I needed to improve in that standpoint to make the whole team better. That’s what I’ve been working on in practice.”

Agugua said McCutcheon maintaining that aggressive mentality and putting pressure on opponents will be crucial for the Spartans with the continued attention dedicated to stopping Tori Jankoska.

“That’s really important to our team,” Jankoska said. “We need to be able to get to the foul line. She does a great job at the point guard position at driving downhill, and then when she doesn’t have it she can find open people. She’s really coming into her own. She’s a freshman and she was allowed to have a couple games to figure out what she needed to do for our team. She’s done a great job of doing that.”

Contact Brian Calloway at bcalloway@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.


THURSDAY’S GAME

MSU (16-7, 6-4 Big Ten) at Iowa (14-9, 5-5)

When: 7 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network