EAST LANSING, Mi. (WLNS) – It was on Saturday morning when Michigan State women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant found out she tested positive for COVID-19. It was then announced on Sunday that Merchant would be unavailable for Sunday’s home game against Northwestern.

This meant MSU associate head coach Dean Lockwood would serve as acting head coach, until Merchant is cleared to return.

Lockwood has 40 years of coaching to his name, which includes winning two national championships (2007, 2008) as an assistant coach at Tennessee. Plus, six years as the Saginaw Valley State men’s basketball head coach.

The Spartans came out with a purpose against the Wildcats and turned it into a 65-46 win.

Nia Clouden led the way for MSU with a game-high 19 points, and right behind her was freshman Matilda Ekh, who scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting from behind the arc.

Michigan State has dealt with a lot of adversity this season – due to injuries, COVID-19, and the transfer portal – so not having its head coach was just another thing to brush off the shoulder. It’s why this win called for a Lockwood water bottle shower after the game.

“It was heaven on Earth. For a win, you’ll take anything. Have them dump garbage on me, have them dump water on me. I don’t care. It was beautiful. The spirit of this team today was tremendous,” Lockwood said. “The sign of a great leader is you can remove the leader, temporarily, and the team still functions at a high level. And that’s a credit to Suzy.”

“We talked about, before the game, being tough today. Play tough, play for each other and play for Suzy,” Ekh said.”

Clouden said, “There was a lot of motivation heading in because we knew (Suzy) would scratch, nail, and crawl her way into the game if she could. We called her at the end of the game and she was so emotional and proud of us.”