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Spartans Fall to Minnesota, 66-51

Feb. 26, 2009

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Aisha Jefferson | Lykendra Johnson
Coach Merchant Post Game Press Conference

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Minnesota snapped the Michigan State women's basketball team's six-game home winning streak with a 66-51 victory over the Spartans Thursday night at the Breslin Center. Redshirt junior Aisha Jefferson led MSU (19-9, 12-5 Big Ten) with 15 points, while redshirt freshman Lykendra Johnson nearly had a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.

The difference in the game was 3-point shooting, as Minnesota (19-9, 11-6) connected on eight 3-point field goals while Michigan State was held to 1-of-18 from beyond the arc. MSU, the top rebounding team in the Big Ten, was also outrebounded for the first time in four games and only the fifth time all season. Minnesota held a 43-35 advantage on the boards.

Emily Fox scored a game-high 20 points for the Gophers, including three 3's, to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Minnesota, who never trailed in the contest, led by seven at halftime, 34-27. The Spartans outscored the Gophers in the paint 20-6 in the first half, but Minnesota negated the inside game with six 3-pointers.

Junior Allyssa DeHaan and Jefferson hit back-to-back shots to open the second half, cutting the margin to five at 36-31 with 18:07 remaining. The Gophers responded by rattling off an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to break the game wide open with a 16-point lead at 47-31.

MSU fought back and trimmed the lead to 58-48 on a Lauren Aitch jumper with 4:15 remaining, but it was as close the Spartans would get. Four straight Gopher free throws pushed the margin back to 14 points at 62-48 and Michigan State was limited to three free throws and no field goals the rest of the game.

"I think they outworked us," said MSU head coach Suzy Merchant. "They wanted it more. They got on the boards right from the tip. I thought our kids were slow at reacting. We have some kids on this team, especially our post players, that are very capable of being double-digit rebounders night in and night out. Some of their performances in the rebounding area were inexcusable.

"We just didn't put the ball in the basket. It's back up against the wall time. Everybody just has to respond. We are going to be at home in our gym so this will be a big game for us on Sunday against Purdue."

The Spartans still have an opportunity to earn the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament with a victory over Purdue on Sunday (March 1) in the regular-season finale at noon in the Breslin Center. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.



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