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Women's Basketball
Women's Basketball Remains on Road Thursday at Iowa
 
 
 
Senior Klarissa Bell scored a career-high 25 points in last year's game with Iowa at Breslin Center.
 
Senior Klarissa Bell scored a career-high 25 points in last year's game with Iowa at Breslin Center.
 
 

Jan. 15, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State women's basketball team begins conference play with three of its first four games on the road, capping that stretch on Thursday at Iowa (14-4, 2-2). Tip at Carver-Hawkeye Arena is set for 8 p.m. ET. The Spartans (11-5), who begin Big Ten play at 3-0 for the seventh time in program history, are coming off a 79-72 win at in-state rival Michigan on Sunday. It will be the only meeting this season between the two schools.

rv/rv Michigan State (11-5, 3-0) at rv/rv Iowa (14-4, 2-2)
 Date Thursday, Jan. 16
 Time 8 p.m. ET
 Location Iowa City, Iowa | Carver-Hawkeye Arena
 Television none
 Internet Coverage Big Ten Digital Network | Click Here to Watch 
Gametracker
 Radio WJIM 1240AM | Click Here to Listen
Keaton Gillogly - play-by-play
 Game Notes  Michigan State | Iowa
 Statistics  Michigan State | Iowa
 Video  Spartan Women's Basketball All-Access - Episode 5
Suzy Merchant Weekly Press Conference
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

ABOUT IOWA
The Hawkeyes, who are receiving votes in both national polls, enter the week at 14-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten. After dropping its first two games in the conference at Indiana and home to Penn State, Iowa has bounced back to beat Minnesota and win at Wisconsin. Iowa leads the Big Ten and is top-20 in the nation in points (81.7), assists (18.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), while also top-20 nationally in field goal percentage (45.8%). Five Hawkeyes are averaging double-figure points on the year. Junior Samantha Logic leads the team in points (14.7), rebounds (6.9) and assists (7.0). Her assist total leads the conference and is eighth in the NCAA. Bethany Doolittle is second in the Big Ten with 3.0 blocks (11th in NCAA) and with a 58.5% field goal percentage (19th nationally).

AGAINST THE HAWKEYES
Michigan State trails the all-time series with Iowa, 34-25, but won the last meeting 65-54 in East Lansing in the only game last season. The Spartans have lost four-straight in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with their last win coming in 2007, and are 8-19 all-time in Iowa City.

Only five current Spartans have playing experience against the Hawkeyes. Klarissa Bell is averaging 10.3 points in her four games against Iowa, including a career-high 25 points last season. Annalise Pickrel has scored in double-figures each of the last two seasons against the Hawkeyes, averaging 11.0 points, while shooting 5-for-12 (41.7%) from 3-point, in the two games. Meanwhile, juniors Jasmine Hines, Kiana Johnson and Becca Mills have combined to score only 22 points in six games.

LAST MEETING (MICHIGAN STATE 65, IOWA 54 - January 17, 2013 - East Lansing, Mich.)
- Michigan State closed the game on a 14-3 run over the final 3:37, after the second half saw nine lead changes and five ties.
- The Spartans were by Klarissa Bell's career-high 25 points and nine rebounds. Bell hit a half-court shot to beat the halftime buzzer. Bell missed five of her first six shots, but ended the night 10-for-20 from the field, including 2-for-4 from 3-point, and 3-for-3 from the foul line.
- Annalise Pickrel scored 10 points, all in the second half, knocking down three 3-pointers.
- Off fthe bench, Kiana Johnson posted eight points, a game-high six assists (no turnovers), five rebounds and two steals in 31 minutes.
- MSU held Iowa to a season-low 14.3% (2-for-14) from the 3-point line.
- Iowa's 54 points was its third-fewest in a game that season.

QUICK HITTERS FROM SUNDAY (MICHIGAN STATE 79, MICHIGAN 72)
- With the game tied at 65 with under three minutes left, Mills scored on back-to-back Spartan possessions to give MSU the lead.
- Michigan State went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the final minute to ice the game.
- The Spartan offense exploded in the second half, scoring 51 points, while shooting 58.1% from the field.
- Annalise Pickrel led MSU in scoring for the second-straight game, pouring in 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Pickrel also had a career-high eight assists, with only one turnover, six rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes.
- Kiana Johnson added 14 points (12 of which were in the second half), four assists and two steals, while Aerial Powers had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds, and Becca Mills scored 12.
- It was the lone meeting of the season between the two schools.
- Michigan State has now won 22 of its last 24 meetings against Michigan. The Spartans are now 63-16 all-time in the series.
- Suzy Merchant is now 14-2 all-time against Michigan as Spartan head coach.
- The Spartans have won nine of their last 11 trips to Crisler Center and are now 25-10 all-time in Ann Arbor.
- MSU scored 51 second-half points, surpassing the 47.2 points per game that Michigan was allowing in its previous three games.
- MSU's 79 points tied for the second most allowed by Michigan this season.
- The 79 points were also the most scored by MSU in the series since Dec. 31, 2009 (86).
- Michigan State had a season-low nine turnovers.
- The Spartans shot 18-for-20 from the free throw line, marking the highest percentage (90.0%) in a game this season.

POWERS, PICKREL HONORED
Redshirt freshman Aerial Powers earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the third time this season on Monday, while senior Annalise Pickrel was also recognized on the conference's Player of the Week Honor Roll.

Powers averaged 15.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals in only 27.5 minutes. She opened the week with her fourth double-double of the season against Nebraska, posting team-highs of 17 points and 15 rebounds, which set a season-high, while adding three steals and two blocks in 27 minutes. Powers ended the week with 13 points, seven rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes at Michigan.

Pickrel was the offensive leader for MSU during the week, leading the team with 16.5 points, while adding 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists (with only one turnover) and 1.5 blocks in 34.0 minutes. She shot 52.6% from the field, 55.6% (5-for-9) from 3-point and 72.7% (8-for-11) from the free throw line. Pickrel had her second career double-double against the Huskers, posting 17 points and 10 rebounds. She was 5-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-6 from behind the arc. In her final regular season game against the Wolverines, Pickrel led Michigan State with 16 points and a career-high eight assists, also chipping in six rebounds and two blocks.

FAST START
The Spartans have begun Big Ten play at 3-0 for the seventh time in program history (1987-88, 1989-90, 1990-91, 2006-07, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14), including three of the last four seasons. Michigan State is the lone undefeated team in the conference.

Michigan State and Purdue are the only two Big Ten schools to start conference play with three of its first four games on the road.

BEING OFFENSIVE
Michigan State is off to its best offensive season under head coach Suzy Merchant. The Spartans are averaging 76.6 points and have a 45.1% field goal percentage. The points per game average is more than nine points better than any Merchant-led MSU team (the 2010-11 team averaged 67.3 points) and the field goal percentage is also the highest during the Merchant era (the 2008-09 team shot 42.1%). Currently, the 76.6 points per game would be the second-best in program history, just 0.2 points lower than the 1996-97 team that averaged 76.8 points.

Already this season, the Spartans have scored 80 or more points in seven of their 16 games. The total is the most in a season since 2004-05 and already the eighth-most in a single-season. In Merchant's previous six seasons, Michigan State reached 80 points only 17 times in 202 games.

Also, Michigan State has already shot at least 50% from the field five times in the first 16 games. All of last season, MSU shot over 50% on only five occasions.

Through the first three Big Ten games, the Spartans are second in the conference in field goal percentage at 47.5%. All five starters are shooting at least 50% from the field and all rank among the top-15 in the conference. Becca Mills is tied for fourth at 58.3%, followed by Klarissa Bell in sixth (55.6%), Aerial Powers in 12th (51.6%), and Kiana Johnson and Annalise Pickrel tied for 14th (50.0%).

The Spartans opened Big Ten play by facing the top-two defenses in the conference - Minnesota (55.9, 33.3%) and Nebraska (58.6, 36.6%) - during non-conference action. However, it did not seem to effect the Spartan offense, as MSU has averaged 75.5 points, while shooting 47.9% from the field and 43.2% from the 3-point line. The 81 points against Minnesota the most by MSU in a Big Ten game since Jan. 29, 2012, while the 56.9% field goal percentage was the best since Feb. 3, 2005.

GETTING DEFENSIVE
Michigan State has stepped up its defensive effort over the last seven games, holding its opponents to 58.6 points, 33.9% field goal percentage and 27.6% from 3-point, compared to 68.4 points, 40.5% field goal and 38.3% 3-point shooting in its first nine games.

The Spartans have also been effective against the opposition's leading scorer during this seven-game stretch as well. The seven team's leading scorers have combined to shoot 36.7% (36-for-98), while averaging 12.4 points, a full four points below their combined season averages (16.4). In conference play, MSU has faced the top-two scorers in the Big Ten. Minnesota's Rachel Banham (21.2) was held to 13 points on 6-for-19 shooting, while Nebraska's Jordan Hooper had 21 points, but only went 9-for-22 from the field.

DISHING IT OUT
Michigan State has moved up to second in the Big Ten and 22nd in the nation in assists with 17.4 per game. Over the last four games, MSU is averaging 20.3 assists, reaching at least 20 assists in three of the four games. Against Colgate and Minnesota, the Spartans totaled at least 20 assists in back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 27-28, 2009.

Junior Kiana Johnson, who is third in the Big Ten and 20th in the nation with 6.1 assists per game, has been a major contributor to the high assist total. In the 14 games she has played, the Spartans are averaging 18.4 assists, while in the two games she missed (Florida State and Virginia Tech) the team averaged only 11.5 assists.

LIMITING THE MISTAKES
The Spartans have been more careful with the ball of late, averaging only 13.1 turnovers over their last eight games (compared to 16.9 turnovers in their first eight games). MSU leads the Big Ten in conference games with only 11.7 turnovers a game, including a season-low nine against Michigan on Sunday. In the three league games, the Spartans have allowed only 20 points off turnovers (6.7 per game), after allowing 14.1 points in non-conference play.

HELP OFF THE BENCH
The play of the Michigan State bench has been instrumental in the team's success so far this season. As a team, the Spartans are receiving 22.6 points per game from their reserves, compared to 10.7 points for the opposition. The total is currently second in the Big Ten, behind Purdue (24.0). MSU has two of the top-eight scorers off the bench in the Big Ten, as Tori Jankoska is second with 11.0 points and Branndais Agee is eighth with 5.8 points among conference players with three of fewer starts.

In five of Suzy Merchant's first six seasons, the Spartans have led the Big Ten in bench production (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13).

DOUBLING IT UP
Against Georgetown, junior Kiana Johnson became the sixth different Spartan this season to post a double-double. MSU is the only school in the Big Ten with six different players with a double-double (three schools have had three different players). In Michigan State history, it is the first time that a team has had six different double-doubles.

For the year, MSU has 10 total double-doubles. All of last year, the Spartans only had four. Johnson's double-double was the first by a Spartan using assists since Kristin Haynie on March 27, 2005 vs. Vanderbilt.

COMFORTABLE AT HOME
Michigan State's offensive numbers at home and away have been drastically different. In the eight home games, the Spartans are averaging 85.1 points, while shooting 47.9% from the field and 41.8% from 3-point, where they made 8.3 per game. However in its eight games either on the road or on a neutral floor, MSU is scoring only 68.0 points, and shooting 42.2% from the field and 29.1% from behind the arc, with 5.5 3-pointers per game. In addition, their rebound margin at home is +11.1, while +1.9 on the road, and their assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.28 (18.9-14.8) at Breslin and 1.04 (16.0-15.3) on the road.

Individually, redshirt freshman Aerial Powers leads the team in Breslin Center scoring with 16.5 points and rebounding with 9.6, but has posted 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds outside of East Lansing. Freshman Tori Jankoska and senior Annalise Pickrel have also seen statistical differental between games at home and away from Breslin. Jankoska is scoring 14.3 points, while shooting 42.6% (20-for-47) from 3-point, compared to 7.8 points and 22.5% (9-for-40) in road/neutral games. Pickrel has also seen stark contrasts in shooting at and away from Breslin, shooting an impressive 73.9% (17-for-23) from 3-point and 62.5% from the field at home and 30.0% (12-for-40) from 3-point and 40.4% overall on the road.

GETTING FREEBIES
Getting to the free throw line this season has been integral in the success of the team. The Spartans are 11-0 this season when going to the line more than their opponents, while losing all five games when the opponent has more attempts. In the 11 wins, Michigan State is averaging 24.1 free throw attempts and putting the opponent to the line 14.7 times, while in the losses, MSU is only attempting 11.2 per game and allowing 22.2.

FRESHMAN RELIANCE
Michigan State has had to rely heavily on the production of three freshmen early on in the 2013-14 season. Branndais Agee, Tori Jankoska and Aerial Powers have all started at least one game and all have played a prominent role this year. The trio has combined to produce 39.8% of the Spartan offense, as Powers (13.6 points) and Jankoska (11.0) rank second and third on the team, respectively. The percentage is the second-highest in head coach Suzy Merchant's seven seasons. In the Big Ten, the percentage is third this season, trailing Indiana (54.1%) and Northwestern (49.0%).

CRASHING THE BOARDS
Michigan State led the Big Ten in rebounds margin for the third-straight season, and for the fourth time in the last five years, last season. The Spartans have been top-40 in the country in rebound margin each of the last six seasons, getting as low as ninth nationally in 2010-11.

After getting out-rebounded by 23 in its opener at Notre Dame, Michigan State has a +8.5 rebound margin in its last 15 games. For the season, the Spartans are +6.5 on the glass to rank fourth in the Big Ten.

MSU has out-rebounded 86 of its last 107 opponents (80.4%).

The Spartans led the Big Ten in conference games last season with a +6.3 margin. MSU has led the league in three of the last five seasons in conference games only.

MAGIC NUMBERS
In head coach Suzy Merchant's tenure, when two numbers on the scoreboard were achieved it typically has been a sign of a MSU win. When the Spartans have scored at least 70 points, their record is 67-5 (93.1%), but had a 44-game winning streak snapped when reaching that number vs. IPFW. Also, when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 116-11 (91.3%).

CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 91 of their last 92 games (98.9%) when leading with five minutes left, including winning 42 games in a row. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 133-5 (96.4%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.

ROAD WARRIORS
A major factor in the Big Ten success of the Spartans under Coach Merchant has been their play away from Breslin Center. In the six-plus seasons under Merchant, MSU is 33-20 (62.3%) in road conference games, the most wins in the Big Ten during that span. Only Nebraska (13-5) and Ohio State (29-23) have a winning road league record over the last six seasons.

MSU has had a winning road Big Ten record in each of the last four previous seasons (6-3 in 2008-09 and 2009-10, 6-2 in 2010-11, 5-3 in 2011-12). During that time, the other 11 Big Ten schools have combined for only 12 winning road seasons.

RINGING THE BELL FOR THE LAST TIME
Patience and progression have been two common words to describe Klarissa Bell's playing career at Michigan State. Growing up in East Lansing and being named Michigan's Miss Basketball as a high school senior, she came to MSU with high expectations. However, through her first 48 games as a Spartan, she struggled to find a role and a spot on the floor. Bell averaged just 2.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 10.2 minutes during that time. However, Merchant inserted her into the starting lineup on Jan. 29, 2012 vs. Penn State and she has started every game since.

As a starter, Bell has helped Michigan State to a 44-17 record, while averaging 9.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.6 minutes.

Each season, Bell has seen progression in her stat lines, including averaging career highs of 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks as a junior. Her points and rebounds led the team, while her blocks were second, and her assists and steals were third. Because of a shortened bench, Bell was relied upon to play extended minutes, ranking fourth on the MSU single-season list in minutes (1,196) and sixth in minutes per game (35.2). Her play earned her third-team All-Big Ten honors, and placed her on the coaches' preseason All-Big Ten team.

This season, Bell is sixth on the team with 8.6 points, but is second in assists (3.8) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8), fourth in steals (0.9) and rebounds (5.1). She is fourth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio and 11th in assists.

The Spartans' success last season was weighed heavily based upon Bell's play. In Michigan State's 25 wins, she averaged 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 45.1% from the field, while in the nine losses, she scored only 6.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and shot just 29.5%. So far this season, the trend has continues, as in the 11 wins, Bell is averaging 9.5 points and 4.3 assists, while shooting 49.4%, and in the five losses, she is averaging 6.6 points and 2.6 assists, while shooting 29.5%.

PICK AND POP
Senior Annalise Pickrel made a huge breakthrough last year in her junior season. After averaging 3.3 and 2.5 points in her first two seasons, Pickrel increased her scoring output to 9.3 points per game, which tied for third on the team. Her +6.8 point increase ranked third in the Big Ten last season.

Pickrel has begun her senior season on a high note, building off her success last season. Through 16 games, she is averaging a team-best 13.7 points and is second on the team with 7.0 rebounds, along with a team-best 1.2 blocks and 2.8 assists (third on the team) in 32.6 minutes. Pickrel is shooting 49.7% from the field, 46.0% from the 3-point line (29-for-63) and 80.9% (38-for-47) from the free throw line, all career highs. Aside from career highs in the shooting categories. Pickrel's points, rebounds, assists and blocks are all on pace for career highs.

So far this season, Pickrel has reached the 20-point plateau in three games, after doing so only once in her first three seasons.

In the season opener at No. 6 Notre Dame, Pickrel posted her first career double-double (11 points and 12 rebounds), while also setting career highs with 12 rebounds and five assists, both team highs. With her stat line, Pickrel became the first Spartan since Kalisha Keane on Dec. 8, 2007 vs. Indiana State to tally at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game.

Her greatest asset the last two seasons has been her production from the 3-point line. Leading the team in both categories, Pickrel ranked ninth in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7%) and 3-point field goals made per game (1.8) last season. Pickrel made a career-high 65 3-pointers, which is the seventh most in a Spartan single season. Entering that year, she was just 19-for-63 (30.2%) from the 3-point arc in her first two seasons at MSU. This season, she is third in the conference at 46.0% and 12th with 1.8 3-pointers.

Pickrel is currently ninth in Spartan history with 113 3-point field goals made, while ranking fourth with a career 37.3% 3-point field goal percentage.

Through three Big Ten games, Pickrel has only one turnover in 96 total minutes. She dished out a career-high eight assists on Sunday at Michigan, and leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio in league play at 10:1.

TAKING CARE OF THE ROCK
Junior Kiana Johnson has orchestrated the Spartan offense through her first three seasons in green and white. Johnson has led MSU in assists in each of her first two seasons, and ranks third on the Spartan career list with 4.5 assists per game. She has been equally careful with the ball, posting a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.06 (318:154), which is currently first in the MSU record books. So far in 2013-14, Johnson is 20th in the nation, third in the Big Ten and leads the team with 6.1 assists per game, and leads the conference and is third in the country with a 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.

In her last 11 games (having led MSU in assists in nine of those), Johnson has totaled 75 assists (6.8 per game) to only 18 turnovers (4.2 assist-to-turnover). Against IPFW, Johnson dished out a career-high 11 assists; the total tied for the eighth-most in a single game, and was the most by a Spartan since Donita Johnson vs. Indiana on Feb. 5, 1999. She also had double-figure assists vs. Georgetown on Friday, en route to her first career double-double. It was the first double-double using assists by a Spartan since Kristin Haynie on March 27, 2005 vs. Vanderbilt. Also, Johnson became the first Spartan since Tamika Matlock in 1996-97 with multiple double-digit assists games in the same season.

FRESH START
Freshman Tori Jankoska made a quick impression on the 2013-14 Spartan season. Jankoska is third on the team with 11.0 points, and broke out of a shooting slump vs. Colgate. Since coming back from the holiday break, Jankoska is averaging 13.0 points over the last four games, shooting 50.0% (11-for-22) from the 3-point line. Leading into the break, she had averaged 4.0 points over her previous five games, and had made only seven 3-pointers (7-for-40; 17.5%) in her previous eight contests. Her 25 points vs. the Raiders was the ninth-most all-time by a Spartan freshman. In the game, Jankoska went 6-for-9 from 3-point, marking the fourth-most in a single-game and the second-most by a freshman.

Jankoska was the first Spartan freshman ever to begin her MSU career with four-straight double-figure scoring games.

At Temple, Jankoska gathered her first career double-double with team-highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds, a season high. She also went 10-for-12 from the free throw line, the most free throws made by a Spartan since Feb. 6, 2011 (Brittney Thomas vs. Purdue). Against Dayton, Jankoska and redshirt freshman Aerial Powers each scored 24 points. It was the most points scored by a Spartan freshman since Kalisha Keane scored 24 points in the WNIT Championship game vs. Marquette on April 5, 2008.

Jankoska came to Michigan State with a laundry list of high school accolades, highlighted by being named a PARADE High School All-American, Michigan's Miss Basketball and Michigan's Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She shattered Freeland's career scoring record, totaling 2,333 points, while averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 steals in her career. As a senior, she averaged 30.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 4.8 steals.

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK(S)
Redshirt freshmen Branndais Agee and Aerial Powers returned from season-ending injuries last season. Agee, a high school All-American, played in only five games last season, averaging 2.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 13.2 minutes, before tearing her right ACL. Powers, who was a top-100 recruit and a two-time Michigan AP Class B Player of the Year, missed the entire season after tearing the Achilles tendon in her left ankle during preseason practice.

Both players are expected to be major contributors this season, but Powers has been the first to make an immediate impact. She second on the team with 13.6 points, which is 24th in the Big Ten, and leads the squad with 8.0 rebounds, which is eighth in the conference, and 2.0 steals, which is sixth. She is also is averaging 2.2 assists in just 25.1 minutes. Powers is 15th in the conference and third on the team, shooting 49.4%. Powers has earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors three times this season, including this past Monday, becoming the first Spartan to do so. Over her last 10 games, she has posted four double-doubles, while averaging 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds in 27.0 minutes.

Currently, Powers is the only freshman in the nation to average at least 13.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

Powers had her best statistical output of the season vs. IPFW, posting her first career double-double with game-highs of 28 points and 14 rebounds. Her points were the most by a Spartan freshman since Nov. 29, 2006 (and the second-most all-time by a freshman) and her rebounds were the most by a MSU freshman since Jan. 22, 2009. Powers followed it up with another double-double at Florida State with 19 points and 10 rebounds. She became the first Spartan since Courtney Schiffauer on Dec. 8 and 16 last season to record back-to-back double-doubles, and the first MSU freshman to do so since Lykendra Johnson on Feb. 8 and 12 in 2009. Powers had her fourth double-double last Thursday vs. No. 16/14 Nebraska, totaling 17 points and 15 rebounds in only 27 minutes. Her 15 rebounds were the most by a Spartan in a game since Jan. 7, 2012 and the 13th-most ever by a MSU freshman.

Agee has been up-and-down so far this season. Against Detroit, she became the first Spartan freshman to post a double-double since Lykendra Johnson at Indiana on Feb. 12, 2009. Agee led MSU with 17 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs, in a career-high 23 minutes. For the season, Agee is averaging 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in only 13.1 minutes.

HOLDING DOWN THE POST
Early in the 2013-14 season, junior Becca Mills was asked to fill a lot of minutes in the post due to some early season injuries. Head coach Suzy Merchant praised Mills' offseason work ethic and early season effort. In her first two seasons, Mills has totaled 552 points (8.2 points per game), so she is accustomed to shouldering the expectations.

Mills has been up-and-down so far this season, as she had yet to put together more than two good games in a row, until her recent stretch where she has scored in double figures in three-straight games. For the season, she is fourth on the team with 9.4 points and third with 5.8 rebounds in 24.6 minutes. Her best game this season came at Virginia Tech (Dec. 7), where she exploded for 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench, for her first career double-double. In Mills' last eight games, she is shooting 59.3% (32-for-54) from the field, including making 12-straight shots during one stretch.

PRODUCTIVE MINUTES
Junior Jasmine Hines came to East Lansing as Michigan's high school career points and rebounds record holder, but her minutes have been limited over her first two seasons at Michigan State. However in those minutes, her production has been effective, averaging 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in only 13.8 minutes. Hines has led MSU in field goal percentage in each of her first two seasons.

Hines returned to the lineup for the first time this season at Florida State, after missing the first seven games due to a concussion. For the season, she is averaging 3.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 11.1 minutes, and is slowly working back into more significant minutes. She is shooting 50.0% from the field on the year. Hines is shooting 10-for-15 (66.7%) over her last six games, after starting the year 1-for-7 (14.3%) in first three appearances.

WORTH THE WAIT
Nov. 23 marked the long-awaited return to the court of 6-7 center Madison Williams. The former McDonalds All-American suffered three ACL injuries over the past three seasons, limiting her to three career games entering this season. Williams stepped onto the court against Rice for the first time since Nov. 15, 2011 to a standing ovation from the Breslin Center crowd. In her five minutes of action, she went 3-of-4 from the field for six points, while also adding a rebound, a block and a steal.

After playing only one minute in the next game at Temple, Williams missed the next three games before returning against Oakland. She played six minutes, grabbing three rebounds and blocking two shots. Williams is back to playing steady minutes over the last six games.

So far this season per 40 minutes, Williams is averaging 12.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks.

At 6-7, Williams is currently the fifth tallest player in NCAA Division I. The only student-athletes taller are Pittsburgh's Marvadene Anderson (6-11), Albany's Megan Craig (6-9), UCLA's Savanna Trapp (6-9) and Nevada's Mimi Mungedi (6-8).

20-FOR-10
Last season, Michigan State went 25-9 marking the 10th-straight season that the Spartans have won at least 20 games. The streak is the longest active streak in the Big Ten (Penn State is second with three-in-a-row). Entering this season, MSU is one of 11 teams in the nation to have won at least 20 games in each of the last 10 seasons - Baylor, Bowling Green, Connecticut, Duke, Green Bay, Marist, Middle Tennessee State, Stanford, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Spartans' 25 wins were the third-most in program history (2004-05 - 33 wins, 2010-11 - 27 wins).

ANOTHER STREAK EXTENDED
The Spartans finished the Big Ten season at 10-6 and in a tie for third place last season. Michigan State has now won at least 10 Big Ten games in 11-straight seasons. It is the longest active streak in the Big Ten (with Penn State second at three). MSU is 130-55 (70.3%) in conference play over the last 12 seasons, trailing only Ohio State (138-47; 74.6%) in wins.

MSU is one of eight Division I teams to have double-digit conference wins in each of the last 11 seasons - Chattanooga, Connecticut, Duke, Green Bay, Liberty, Sacred Heart and Stanford.

The Spartans have now finished third or better in the conference in each of the last five seasons - winning the title in 2010-11, and placing second in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12. In all, MSU has finished no worse than third place in eight of the last nine years.

More recently, MSU has won 47 of its last 62 Big Ten regular season games (75.8%).

FIVE CONSECUTIVE INVITATIONS TO THE BIG DANCE
Michigan State made its fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012-13, and its 10th in the last 11 years. Overall, the Spartans qualified for their 12th straight postseason. The five appearances in a row tie the longest stretch in program history. MSU has won at least one game in eight of its last nine NCAA Tournament trips.

MSU is one of 19 schools in the country (and one of only two in the Big Ten) to make the NCAA Tournament the last five seasons - Baylor, Connecticut, DePaul, Duke, Fresno State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Green Bay, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Dakota State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.

MERCHANT MARVELS
In Coach Merchant's first six-plus seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 151-67 (69.3%). Her winning percentage is the 10th-best all-time among Big Ten coaches, and second among active conference coaches. Entering the year, her 140 wins were the fourth-most by a Big Ten coach in their first six seasons. During her span, the 151 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (161). Merchant has won at least 20 games in nine-straight seasons, not including the shortened 2006-07 season due to her maternity leave. In her career, she has 10 20-win seasons.

In conference games, she is 72-33 (68.6%), ranking her 10th all-time in career winning percentage in Big Ten games and first among active coaches. During her Spartan career, her 72 conference wins are second to only Ohio State (73).

Last season was Suzy Merchant's sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament, posting a 5-6 record. She has guided the Spartans to the last five tournaments, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2009 and the second round in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Merchant ties Joanne P. McCallie for the most NCAA appearances as a MSU head coach (five). Over the last five NCAA Tournaments, her five wins are second among Big Ten schools (Purdue has six). Merchant also took Eastern Michigan to the tournament in 2004.

ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 4-3 all-time on January 16.

 

 

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