Feb. 17, 2011
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Coach Merchant's Post-Game Press Conference
Kalisha Keane | Cetera Washington | Lykendra Johnson | Taylor Alton
Northwestern Coach Joe McKeown's Post-Game Press Conference
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan State moved a step closer toward winning the Big Ten title outright for the first time, beating Northwestern 74-60 Thursday night.
Then, Ohio State helped out by beating second-place Penn State.
The Spartans (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten) have a 1 1/2-game lead in the conference with just three games left in the regular season.
"It's something that you definitely want to achieve," coach Suzy Merchant said.
The Spartans have put themselves in a position to finish the regular season alone in first place after sharing the Big Ten championship in 1997 and 2005.
If the Spartans win Sunday at Illinois, they will clinch at least a share of the conference championship and will be the top-seeded team at the Big Ten tournament because they have the tiebreaker edge over the Nittany Lions and third-place Wisconsin.
"We'll have our hands full at Illinois - whatever ends up being at stake," Merchant said.
Amy Jaeschke gave Michigan State more than it could handle in the first half, scoring 16 points to help the Wildcats lead 36-33. But the Spartans made adjustments, deciding to make her work harder without the ball with physical defense and to front the 6-foot-5 senior in the post.
"The difference was our defense in the second half," Merchant said. "We did a much better job on Jaeschke."
Jaeschke finished with 25 points and Brittany Orban added 11 for the Wildcats (16-11, 5-9).
Northwestern, which has lost three straight games and seven of nine, overcame a slow start well enough to be in a closely contested game with 15 ties and 16 lead changes. The Wildcats, though, were outscored 14-2 over the final 3 1/2 minutes.
"We had tremendous opportunities and we let them slip away," coach Joe McKeown said. "It came down to offensive rebounds."
Northwestern held the Spartans to 39-percent shooting, but gave up 23 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second-chance points.
"We did everything we wanted to other than not giving them second shots," McKeown said. "Give them credit, but I'm really disappointed with the way we finished."
With the win...
- MSU improves to 23-3 on the season, continuing the best start in program history, and is 11-2 in Big Ten play, holding onto first place in the conference.
- MSU has won 21 of its last 24 Big Ten regular season games.
- MSU won its 20th straight game at the Breslin Center, the second longest streak in program history and the ninth longest active run in NCAA Division I.
- The Spartans won their 24th straight game win scoring 70 or more points and are 41-4 under Merchant when reaching that number.
- The Spartans won their 14th consecutive game over Northwestern and 24 of the last 26. All-time MSU is 35-22 against NU. At Breslin Center, MSU has also won 14 straight and are 21-6 all-time in East Lansing.
- MSU improves to 11-1 all-time on Feb. 17 and have not lost on this date since 1985.
- It was the first Big Ten game this season that Lykendra Johnson was not the leading rebounder for MSU, as Cetera Washington paced MSU with a career high 12 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end, also a career high.
- Johnson had eight rebounds which moved her into 10th on the MSU career rebounding list with 684.
- Johnson led MSU in scoring for the seventh time this season with 19 points.
- Taylor Alton scored in double-figures for the third straight game with 13 points. Alton is averaging 13.7 over that span. She has also made 11 3-pointers during that run.
- Alton also had a career high four offensive rebounds.
- Brittney Thomas tied for the team lead with three assists, placing her in a tie for fifth all-time at MSU with 382 assists.
- Jasmine Thomas scored eight points and had three rebounds, her most points and rebounds since Dec. 12 vs. Iona.
- With two free throws made, Keane tied for 14th all-time at MSU with 240.
- Washington is tied for ninth now at MSU with 128 games played. B. Thomas is now tied for 15th with 117 games.
- With 33 minutes played, Keane is now eighth all-time at MSU with 3,399, and tied for 14th with 88 games started.
- With six 3-pointers today, MSU set the program single-season record with 178. The 2004-05 team held the previous record with 176.
- MSU held a 45-29 edge in rebounding over Northwestern. MSU has outrebounded its last 12 opponents and 18 of its last 19. Over the last 12 games, the Spartans are +11.4 a game on the boards.
- MSU's 45 rebounds tie its high in a Big Ten game this season.
- The Spartans had 23 offensive rebounds which led to a 13-7 advantage in second chance points.
- MSU is 29-1 over the last two seasons, including a 15-0 mark this season when shooting more free throws than its opponent.
- Porsche Poole missed tonight's game with an illness.