February 28, 1999
Site: RCA Dome - Indianapolis, IN (BIG TEN TOURNAMENT)
Game Result: No. 15 Penn State 79, Michigan State 74
Records: Michigan State 15-13; Penn State 21-6
MSU's Next Action: End of regular season
Indianapolis, Ind. - It was a strange night for the Michigan State women's basketball team at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind. The Spartans looked like they were going to be blown out against 15th-ranked Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, but a 15-minute "rain delay" gave MSU a chance to regroup and make a ball game of it before falling to the Lady Lions, 79-74. The Spartans end the regular season with an overall record of 15-13, while Penn State improves to 21-6 and advances to the semifinals of the conference tourney.
MSU committed 14 first half turnovers and shot just 35 percent from the field as Penn State went into the locker room with a 36-25 halftime advantage.
"We had a great effort by this team particularly in the second half," Langeland said. "I don't think I could ask for a whole lot more. There were some mistakes we made in the first half, but I thought we did a decent job making some corrections at halftime and coming out playing a little more aggressively."
A basket underneath by Andrea Garner gave the Lady Lions their biggest lead of the game at 49-34 with 15:20 left in the contest, but 38 seconds later the game would be halted. A severe thunderstorm passed through the Indianapolis area dumping a large amount of rain on the area and causing the RCA Dome roof to leak in several areas, including on the court near the MSU basket.
"In my 23 years of coaching, I've never been involved in a rain delay in basketball," MSU coach Karen Langeland said. "I think it helped us a little bit. We played yesterday obviously and Penn State did not, so I think it gave us an opportunity to rest. I think it helped Max in particular because she played 40 minutes, so I think that rest may have helped her out a little bit."
Following the delay, MSU went on a 24-10 run to pull within 59-58 on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Donita Johnson at the 6:38 mark.
Penn State regrouped with three-pointers by Shawnta Vanzant and Lisa Shepherd and a bucket by Maren Walseth pushing its lead back to seven points at 67-60 with 5:13 remaining.
A steal by Reese and a coast-to-coast layup followed by a three-pointer by the First-Team All-Big Ten selection, tied the contest at 67-67 with 3:33 to go. Seconds later, though, junior forward Kristen Rasmussen fouled out of the game.
A jumper by Johnson tied the game again at 69-69 with 2:23 left, but Vanzant countered with her fifth three-pointer of the game to give Penn State at three-point cushion with 2:01 to play.
A driving layup by Walseth put the Lady Lions up 74-69 at the 1:12 mark. A layin by sophomore Becky Cummings brought MSU within three at 74-71 with 58 seconds to go, but the Spartans couldn't get any closer. Penn State hit 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory.
Reese scored 20 of her game-hit 25 points in the second half, hitting 10-of-24 shots from the field and 5-of-9 from three-point range, en route to becoming MSU's all-time leader in three-point field goals with 163.
Johnson added a career-high 15 points and three rebounds, while sophomore Erin Skelly was huge off the bench with 12 points, seven rebounds and a career-high four assists in 27 minutes of action for the Spartans, who shot 60 percent from the field in the second half.
Walseth scored 11 of her team-high 19 points from the free throw line to pace the Lady Lion effort. Vanzant ended the game with 17 points, while Andrea Garner chipped in 16 points and four rebounds.
"I would like to think that we have a great opportunity," Langeland said of her team's chances of earning a WNIT bid. "We were in the ball game with Penn State and we have 15 wins. Hopefully the NIT committee will look at that and give us the opportunity to play somewhere, because I don't think we are finished with the season."
The 32 WNIT bids will be handed out on Sunday, March 7 following the announcement of the NCAA Tournament field.