No. 11 Spartans Top Wolverines, 63-56
 
 
 
Lykendra Johnson hit 17 points and had 17 rebounds in Sunday's win over Michigan.
 
Lykendra Johnson hit 17 points and had 17 rebounds in Sunday's win over Michigan.
 
 

Jan. 9, 2011

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Head Coach Suzy Merchant Press Conference
Lykendra Johnson | Kalisha Keane | Cetera Washington

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan coach Kevin Borseth knew exactly why his Wolverines couldn't beat No. 11 Michigan State on Sunday.

"Every time Michigan State came down the floor, we basically had to stop them twice," Borseth said after a 63-56 loss. "If they missed the first shot, they would get an offensive rebound and put up another one. It's tough to play like that."

The Spartans (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) had 17 offensive rebounds to Michigan's 17 defensive rebounds, and had a 24-7 advantage on the other end.

Lykendra Johnson was the biggest reason for Michigan State's domination of the glass. She finished with 17 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass, to go along with 17 points.

"She was a warrior out there," said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant. "Lykendra just has a really high IQ when it comes to rebounding. She knows where to go for the ball, and she's also a great athlete. A lot of players have that understanding of where the ball is going to be, but they don't have the quickness to get there or the power to get the ball. She has all of that."

Brittney Thomas scored 13 and Kalisha Keane added 12 for Michigan State, which has won 13 straight since losing 78-52 to Baylor on Nov. 19. The Spartans also extended their winning streak over Michigan to eight games.

"We knew this was going to be a tough one, because there is always such emotion in these games," Merchant said. "Michigan's been playing well, and they made it tough on us."

Veronica Hicks led Michigan (9-7, 2-2) with 20, but missed two key free throws in the final minute, including the front end of a one-and-one.

"We lost this game because we made too many mental errors, and a lot of those were mine," said Hicks, who also had four turnovers.

The Wolverines beat three straight top-25 teams, but couldn't get a fourth in a row.

"There were too many times when we came down the floor and just threw the ball into press row," Borseth said. "When you are playing a team like Michigan State, you can't have unforced errors."

Both teams struggled in the first half of a game that started at noon. Michigan State led 27-22 at the half despite 14 turnovers. The Spartans caused 11 turnovers and were strong on the boards at both ends of the floor.

Michigan State led 41-34 with 10 minutes to play, but the Wolverines scored the next five points. Johnson ended the surge with a 3-point play, and Taylor Alton gave the Spartans an eight-point lead with a 3-pointer.

"We had a chance to tie, but we just couldn't get a tip-in off a missed free throw," Borseth said. "That could have changed the rest of the game."

Michigan State led by as many as 11, then held off a late Wolverine surge. Thomas iced the victory by hitting six straight free throws in the final 45 seconds.

"Brittney has been in that position before, and she has always come through for us," Keane said. "We had the utmost confidence that she would do it again."

POST-GAME NOTES

With the win...
- MSU improves to 15-1 on the season and have won 13 straight.
- The record improves the best start in program history.
- The 13-game winning streak is the second longest in program history. The Spartans had a 17-game streak in 2005. The winning streak is also the fifth longest active streak in the country.
- MSU has won its last nine Big Ten regular season games and 13 of its last 14. The nine consecutive conference wins is the second longest run in program history. The Spartans won 11 straight between the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.
- The 3-0 start in Big Ten play is just the fifth in program history and first since 2006-07 and the first under Coach Merchant.
- Under Coach Merchant, MSU is now 62-6 when holding its opponent under 60 points, including 12 of the 13 games during the winning streak.
- The Spartans won their eighth straight over the Wolverines and their 16th in the last 17 games in the series.

Player Notes:
- Junior Lykendra Johnson had her fourth double-double of the season and 11th of her career. She had team highs with 17 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Johnson had 10 offensive rebounds and also added four steals in a season-high 39 minutes.
- Johnson's 17 rebounds were the most by a Spartan since Allyssa DeHaan grabbed 18 vs. Cal State Northridge on Dec. 22, 2006.
- Johnson has posted double-figure rebound games in all three Big Ten games, averaging 13.0 per game in conference play.
- Johnson has led MSU in rebounding in nine of the 16 games this season.
- With two steals, senior Brittney Thomas moved into 13th on the MSU all-time list with 178.
- Thomas and classmate Cetera Washington tied for the team lead with four assists. It was a season-high for Washington and was the first time this season that she has led the team.
- Thomas also grabbed a season-high seven rebounds and scored 13 points, just one point off her season-high.
- Junior Taylor Alton had nine points, on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range, and a career-high tying five rebounds. Her nine points were her most in a Big Ten game in her career.

Team Notes:
- MSU outrebounded Michigan, 41-24. Over the last two games, MSU has outrebounded its opponents, 86-45.
- MSU had a 17-7 edge in offensive rebounds and outscored UM, 21-7 in second chance points.