March 9, 2013
HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) - Jasmine Thomas scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half and Michigan State used its stout defense to upset No. 8 Penn State 54-46 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
Becca Mills added 16 points for the Spartans (24-7), who held Penn State to 22 percent shooting and enjoyed a 52-38 rebounding edge.
Penn State (25-5) won the Big Ten regular-season title and lost in the tournament semifinals for the second straight season. The Lady Lions fell 68-66 against eventual champion Purdue last year.
Penn State star Maggie Lucas, the conference player of the year, had 23 points and nine rebounds, but she was the only player on her team to score in double figures.
Michigan State will meet third-seeded Purdue in the title game Sunday. The Spartans split their two regular-season games against the Boilermakers, losing 67-62 in overtime on Jan. 27 and winning 68-61 at Purdue on Feb. 28.
The Boilermakers advanced with a 77-64 victory over No. 21 Nebraska in the first semifinal.
Penn State led 21-17 early in the second half before the Spartans responded with a 15-3 run. Mills made a 3-pointer before Courtney Schiffauer converted a layup to give Michigan State its first lead of the game. Mills tacked on two more jumpers and Thomas' basket made it 32-24 with 10:54 remaining.
The Lady Lions then turned to Lucas, who made consecutive 3-pointers to trim Michigan State's lead to one. Penn State had a couple of chances to move in front but Alex Bentley missed a jumper and Mia Nickson was off on a layup attempt.
That provided an opening for the Spartans, who put the game away with a 10-0 burst. Thomas' layup made it 44-33 with 4:08 left, leading to a celebration on Michigan State's sideline and a timeout by Penn State.
Bentley was 3 for 15 from the field, and Nickson went 1 for 10.
Penn State got off to a fast start then struggled to score in an ugly first half that featured more turnovers (14) than field goals (11).
Tori Waldner converted a layup with 12:41 to go to give the Lady Lions a 16-5 lead - but that was their last basket of the period.
Penn State staggered into the break with a 19-17 lead despite shooting 20 percent (6 for 30) and losing 28-21 in the rebounding battle. That's because the Spartans were even worse, shooting 18.5 percent (5 for 27) and committing nine turnovers.
POST GAME NOTES:
- Michigan State advances to its second Big Ten Championship game. MSU won the title in 2005. It is Coach Merchant's first trip to the championship game.
- MSU improves to 16-17 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament.
- This is the Spartans' first-ever win over the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
- It was Michigan State's first win over a top-10 team since Feb. 21, 2010 at No. 9/7 Ohio State.
- The Spartans held Penn State to a season-low 46 points (previous low was 52 at UConn). It is PSU's lowest point total since scoring 39 points vs. Wisconsin on Feb. 25, 2010.
- MSU held Penn State to 22.4% shooting, the lowest by a Spartan opponent this season and the lowest since Detroit also shot 22.4% on Dec. 6, 2011. It was the first time that PSU shot below 25% since Dec. 19, 1996 at Alabama.
- The Spartans held Penn State without a field goal over the final 12:41 of the first half.
- Penn State's 19 first half points were its lowest in a half this season (previous low was 22 in the first half at UConn).
- Tonight was the ninth time that the Spartans have held an opponent to under 20 points in the first half.
- MSU's 24 wins are tied for the third-most wins in a single season.
- The Spartans improve to 10-0 all-time under Coach Merchant in the state of Illinois.
- Michigan State finished with a season-best 52 rebounds, outrebounding Penn State, 52-38. PSU was second in the Big Ten with a +5.7 rebound margin entering today.
- It was MSU's largest rebound margin since Jan. 13 at Illinois (+27).
- MSU has outrebounded its last 11 opponents and 27 of its 31 opponents this season.
- Michigan State blocked a season-high nine shots. The most by MSU since Dec. 3, 2011 vs. Eastern Michigan.
- In four career Big Ten Tournament games, Kiana Johnson has 17 assists and just three turnovers.
- Michigan State has held 17 teams below 50 points this season, adding to its single-season record.
- The Spartans have held 27 of their 31 opponents below their season scoring average. PSU entered the game averaging a Big Ten-best 74.4 points per game.
- MSU has won 80 of its last 81 games when leading with five minutes left.
- Jasmine Hines had a career-high 14 rebounds. It is the third time she has led MSU in rebounds in her career and the third time she has posted double-digit rebounds.
- Hines also tied her career highs with two assists and two blocks.
- Becca Mills played a career-high 35 minutes. Her nine rebounds were her second most this season, and her most since the second game of the season.
- Mills went 7-for-13 from the field, tying her season-high for field goals made.
- Coach Merchant now has 139 wins in her first six seasons at MSU, tying for the fourth most in Big Ten history over a coach's first six seasons.
- Jasmine Thomas played in her 128th game, tying for 11th in Spartan history.
- Thomas has scored in double figures in the last seven games, leading MSU in scoring in four of those games. In that span, she is averaging 15.3 points. Her 19 points were the second most in her career.
- Johnson blocked a career-high two shots.