EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State women's basketball overcame a 19-point third-quarter deficit to rally for a 73-64 win over Penn State Wednesday night at the Breslin Center. The comeback victory sparked the Spartans' celebrations on a successful Senior Night celebration honoring their lone senior, Tori Jankoska.
Boxscore vs. Penn State
After Jankoska was held scoreless in the first half, she rallied with 21 second-half points, for a palindromic double-double of 21 points and 12 rebounds. Jankoska was then recognized after the game with a ceremony with her family and teammates, honoring her record-setting Spartan career, deeply etching her name in the MSU record books, holding the records for career scoring, single-game scoring, single-game three-point scoring, career three-point record and career free throws.
The win was MSU's third in a row and sixth in the last eight as the Spartans improved to 19-9 overall and 9-6 in Big Ten Conference action. Penn State had its four-game win streak snapped and the Nittany Lions are now 18-9 overall and 8-7 in B1G play. The Spartans have won three of the last four meetings as part of four of the last six with the Nittany Lions.
Jankoska was one of three Spartans in double-figures, as MSU is now 12-1 this season when at least three players post double-digit points. Graduate student Taya Reimer tallied 13 points while junior forward Kennedy Johnson netted a career-high 12 points, making 6-of-6 field goals.
The Nittany Lions were led by 23 points by Teniya Page, while Sierra Moore tallied 19 points to go with a team-high nine rebounds.
Penn State netted the first seven points of the game and stretched the lead to 13-3 at the first quarter media timeout with 4:16 to play in the opening quarter. The Spartans chipped away at the gap and pulled within 17-14 on a long jumper by redshirt senior Branndais Agee at the 1:35 mark of opening quarter. That would be the closest the home team would get in the first quarter, as the Nittany Lions ended the quarter on a 7-1 spurt and led 24-15 after one quarter of play.
The second quarter was much like the first, with MSU getting close, only to see PSU pull away. The Nittany Lions took their largest lead of the first half at 36-19 with 3:42 on a layup by Ashanti Thomas. MSU couldn't get the gap down to single digits and went into halftime trailing, 40-26.
Penn State scored four of the first five points of the second half to open its biggest advantage of the night at 19 points at 46-27 at the 7:55 mark. The lone MSU point in that stretch was a free throw by Jankoska with 9:23 on the clock for her first point of the night. The Spartans then went on an 11-0 run, starting on a layup by sophomore forward Jenna Allen and capped by back-to-back Reimer layups, the second one coming at 5:35 to pull MSU within 46-38 and forcing PSU to take a timeout.
After the visiting Nittany Lions opened a 54-41 lead on a Page jumper with 3:26 to go in the third quarter, MSU then went on a 10-0 spurt to close out the period, sparked by a bucket by freshman forward Mardrekia Cook and topped off by a pair of Jankoska free throws to pull the Spartans within 54-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
McCutcheon opened the final frame with a layup just 25 seconds into action before Johnson netted a basket at the 8:48 mark for MSU's first lead of the night at 55-54. PSU later took a 61-60 lead on two free throws by Moore with 5:29 to go, but that would be the visitor's last lead as the Spartans closed out the game with a 13-3 run. Reimer tied it at 61-all making the first of two free throws at 5:17 and hit a jumper 20 seconds later to give the home team the lead for good at 63-61.
Jankoska tallied eight of her 21 points in the final 4:20 of the game, including hitting 6-of-6 free throws, the later two coming with 5.7 seconds left on the clock for the final scoring at 73-64. Jankoska was then subbed out, allowing the crowd to give her a standing ovation as she kissed the Spartan head at center court in the traditional Michigan State basketball Senior Night ritual.
Michigan State wraps up regular-season action at Nebraska on Sunday, Feb. 26 in a 2 p.m. ET tip-off from Lincoln, Nebraska. Sunday's regular-season finale between the Spartans and Cornhuskers will be streamed on BTN Plus.
• Michigan State’s 19-point comeback was the largest under head coach Suzy Merchant, topping a 16-point comeback done three times under Merchant, most recently in the 2014-15 season on Dec. 4, 2014 vs. Georgia Tech, and also rallied from down 16 points at Florida State on Dec. 1, 2010 and to Iowa on Jan. 10, 2008.
• MSU cut a PSU 19-point lead to earn the 73-63 victory. Penn State had its largest lead of 19 points with 7:55 left in the third quarter. The Spartans out-scored the Nittany Lions 47-23 in the second half.
• Tori Jankoska recorded her 11th double-double of the season, and 24th of her career with team-high 21 points and team-high 12 rebounds. Wednesday’s 21 points marked her 17th game of scoring 20 or more points.
• Jankoska’s 21 points Wednesday gives her 624 this season, remaining at No. 3 on the MSU single-season points list, but closing the gap on No. 2, held by former teammate Aerial Powers with 678 points in 2014-15.
• Freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon became the MSU freshman assists record holder, breaking the previous mark of 143 by Vnemina Reese in 1999-2000. With five helpers Wednesday, McCutcheon now has 146 assists, moving up to fifth on the overall MSU single-season assists list. With three assists Wednesday, Jankoska now has 145 helpers, one spot behind McCutcheon as No. 6 on the single-season assists list.
• Kennedy Johnson scored a career-high 12 points, shooting a perfect 6-for-6 from the field. She also tallied a season-high 17 minutes of action Wednesday.
• MSU improved to 12-1 when three or more Spartans score in double-digits. Wednesday Jankoska led the way with 21, Taya Reimer recorded 13 points, and Johnson contributed 12 points.
• Branndais Agee took control of the boards grabbing 10 rebounds, two offensive and eight defensive. Wednesday’s double-digit rebounding game marked her sixth of the season. She also contributed seven points in the Spartans victory.
• Michigan State improved to 15-2 when scoring 70 or more points, and the team also improved to 15-2 when allowing 69 points or less.
• MSU doubled its shooting percentage in the second half. The Spartans finished the first half shooting 32.3-percent from the field and in the second half they improved to 65.4-percent from field goal range.
• Victoria Gaines swatted a career-high three shots, and she led the team in blocked shots as Agee was the only other Spartan with a block.