Jan. 18, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
Michigan State women's basketball welcomes No. 16/17 Penn State to Breslin Center on Sunday for a critical early Big Ten matchup. The Spartans (12-5, 4-0) are the lone undefeated team in the Big Ten, leading a group of three schools with one loss, including the Nittany Lions (12-4, 3-1). The game will be nationally-televised on ESPN2 at 5 p.m.
ABOUT PENN STATE
The Nittany Lions (12-4, 3-1) entered the week No. 16 in Associated Press and No. 17 in the USA Today Coaches' polls, and are coming off a 66-42 win over Ohio State on Thursday. Penn State is led by senior Maggie Lucas, who is second in the Big Ten and 23rd in the nation with 21.2 points per game. She also leads the nation in free throw percentage at 97.1%, having gone 99-for-102 on the year. Dara Taylor is the team leader with 4.4 assists, while also topping the conference with 2.9 steals. Talia East leads a strong rebounding team with 7.1 per game. As a team, PSU is third in the Big Ten with a +7.4 rebound margin and is first with 15.2 offensive rebounds. The Nittany Lions are fifth nationally in free throw percentage at 79.3%.
AGAINST THE NITTANY LIONS
Michigan State trails the all-time series with Penn State, 26-14. The Spartans have had more success of late in the series, winning eight of the last 11 matchups, and Coach Merchant is 8-4 against the Nittany Lions. MSU is 8-9 against PSU in East Lansing.
Becca Mills was effective against the Nittany Lions in the three meetings last season, averaging 12.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. Fellow post player Jasmine Hines averaged 8.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in 22.7 minutes last season vs. PSU, including a career-high 14 rebounds in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal matchup. As a freshman, Kiana Johnson averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 assists in the two games, but struggled last season with a stat line of 4.7 points, 1.3 assists and 3.0 turnovers, while shooting 18.8% (3-for-16).
LAST MEETING (MICHIGAN STATE 54, No. 8 PENN STATE 46 - March 9, 2013 - Hoffman Estates, Ill.)
- The No. 4-seeded Spartans knocked off No. 1-seed Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
- Jasmine Thomas scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half and Becca Mills added 16 points for the Spartans.
- MSU held Penn State to 22 percent shooting and had a 52-38 rebounding edge.
- Penn State got off to a fast start, leading 16-5 with 12:41 until half, but didn't make a field goal the rest of the half.
- Penn State led 21-17 early in the second half before the Spartans responded with a 15-3 run. The Nittany Lions got back within one, but MSU put the game away with a 10-0 burst to make it 44-33 with 4:08 left.
- 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 PSU to a season-low 46 points. 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.
- Jasmine Hines had a career-high 14 rebounds off the bench.
QUICK HITTERS FROM THURSDAY (MICHIGAN STATE 88, IOWA 72)
- Michigan State picked up a victory in Iowa City for the first time since Jan. 14, 2007, and the first for head coach Suzy Merchant.
- It was the lone meeting of the season between MSU and Iowa.
- Five Spartans scored in double figures, led by 20 points from Aerial Powers. Powers was 7-for-9 from the field, also adding eight rebounds in 28 minutes. Tori Jankoska poured in 19 points off the bench in 25 minutes, hitting all three of her 3-pointers, and adding three assists with no turnovers. Annalise Pickrel was also hot from behind the arc, going 4-for-6, as she totaled 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds. Klarissa Bell had a solid night with 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Kiana Johnson orchestrated the Spartan offense with eight assists, while adding 10 points and three steals.
- The Spartans began the night by hitting seven of their first nine shots to open up a 15-8 lead at the first media timeout (15:32), and never trailed. The two teams would match possessions until MSU ran off 11-straight points, including 8-in-a-row from Jankoska, over a 3-minute span to open up a 20-point lead (38-18) with 6:11 until halftime.
- MSU shot 54.3% from the field, including 5-for-9 (55.6%) from 3-point, in the first half.
- Iowa attempted to get back into the game in the early minutes of the second half, cutting the deficit to 15 (57-42) with 13:38 to go. However, Michigan State quieted the crowd by going on a 14-2 run over the next 3:50 to put its stamp on the night.
- Michigan State starts 4-0 in the Big Ten for the fifth time (1987-88, 1989-90, 2010-11, 2011-12).
- It is just the third time in program history (1987-88, 2006-07) that MSU won its first three Big Ten road games.
- MSU's 88 points were its most in a Big Ten regular season game since scoring 101 vs. Northwestern on Feb. 3, 2005.
- The point total was also the most scored by Michigan State in the series vs. Iowa.
- It was the third time this season that the Spartans had five players score in double digits.
- The Spartans held Iowa to only 10 assists, as the Hawkeyes entered the game first in the Big Ten and 13th in the nation with 18.9.
- MSU held Iowa to 1-for-13 shooting from 3-point. The Hawkeyes were third in the Big Ten with 7.1 per game entering the night.
The Spartans have begun Big Ten play at 4-0 for the fifth time in program history (1987-88, 1989-90, 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 were the only two Big Ten schools to start conference play with three of its first four games on the road.
AGAINST THE NATION'S BEST
Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 19-26 against ranked teams, including a 11-11 mark against ranked Big Ten schools. This season, the Spartans are 2-2, losing their opener at No. 6/7 Notre Dame, but bounced back to beat No. 23/21 Dayton, before losing to No. 13/16 Oklahoma State in Puerto Rico, and beating No. 16/14 Nebraska at home. It was the highest ranked win at Breslin Center for MSU since beating No. 8 Xavier on Dec. 9, 2009.
Michigan State is off to its best offensive season under head coach Suzy Merchant. The Spartans are averaging 77.2 points and have a 45.5% field goal percentage. The points per game average is almost 10 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 77.2 points per game would be the best in program history, just ahead of the 1996-97 team that averaged 76.8 points.
Already this season, the Spartans have scored 80 or more points in eight of their 17 games. The total is the most in a season since 2004-05 and already the fifth-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 six times in the first 17 games. It is the most in a single-season since 2011-12. All of last season, MSU shot over 50% on only five occasions.
Through the first four Big Ten games, the Spartans lead the conference in scoring (79.5), field goal percentage (48.5%), 3-point field goal percentage (46.9%) and assists (19.3).
Michigan State has stepped up its defensive effort over the last eight games, holding its opponents to 60.2 points, 35.3% field goal percentage and 25.4% from 3-point, compared to 68.4 points, 40.5% field goal and 38.3% 3-point shooting in its first nine games. The eight teams entered the games averaging a combined 72.8 points.
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 37.6% (41-for-109), while averaging 12.5 points, almost four points below their combined season averages (16.2). 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 21st in the nation in assists with 17.5 per game. Over the last five games, MSU is averaging 19.8 assists, reaching at least 20 assists in three of the five 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 18th in the nation with 6.2 assists per game, has been a major contributor to the high assist total. In the 15 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.
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 22.5 points per game from their reserves, compared to 11.5 points for the opposition. The total is currently second in the Big Ten, behind Purdue (23.4). MSU has two of the top-eight scorers off the bench in the Big Ten, as Tori Jankoska is second with 11.5 points and Branndais Agee is eighth with 5.6 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 (Ohio State has four 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 nine games either on the road or on a neutral floor, MSU is scoring only 70.2 points, and shooting 43.2% from the field and 32.1% from behind the arc, with 5.9 3-pointers per game. In addition, their rebound margin at home is +11.1, while +3.3 on the road, and their assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.28 (18.9-14.8) at Breslin and 1.02 (16.2-15.9) 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 11.8 points and 6.6 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 at home, compared to 9.0 points and 27.9% (12-for-43) 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 34.8% (16-for-46) from 3-point and 40.6% overall on the road.
Getting to the free throw line this season has been integral in the success of the team. The Spartans are 12-0 this season when going to the line more than their opponents, while losing all five games when the opponent has more attempts. In the 12 wins, Michigan State is averaging 24.2 free throw attempts and putting the opponent to the line 15.3 times, while in the losses, MSU is only attempting 11.2 per game and allowing 22.2.
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 40.4% of the Spartan offense, as Powers (14.0 points) and Jankoska (11.5) rank first and third on the team, respectively. The percentage is the highest in head coach Suzy Merchant's seven seasons. In the Big Ten, the percentage is third this season, trailing Indiana (54.5%) and Northwestern (49.4%).
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 +8.9 rebound margin in its last 16 games. For the season, the Spartans are +7.0 on the glass to rank fourth in the Big Ten.
MSU has out-rebounded 87 of its last 108 opponents (80.6%).
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.
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 (93.2%), 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 92 of their last 93 games (98.9%) when leading with five minutes left, including winning 43 games in a row. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 134-5 (96.4%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
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 34-20 (63.0%) in road conference games, the most wins in the Big Ten during that span. Only Nebraska (13-5) and Ohio State (29-24) have a winning road league record over the last seven 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.
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.
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 45-17 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 8.8 points, but is second in assists (3.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7), fourth in steals (0.9) and rebounds (5.3). She is fourth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio and 10th 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 continued, as in the 12 wins, Bell is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 assists, while shooting 50.0%, 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 17 games, she is second on the team with 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, along with a team-best 1.1 blocks and 2.7 assists (third on the team) in 32.8 minutes. Pickrel is shooting 49.1% from the field, 47.8% from the 3-point line (33-for-69) and 76.9% (40-for-52) from the free throw line. Pickrel's points, rebounds, assists, 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.
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 leads the conference at 47.8% and is 11th with 1.9 3-pointers.
Pickrel is currently eighth in Spartan history with 117 3-point field goals made, while ranking third with a career 37.9% 3-point field goal percentage.
Through four Big Ten games, Pickrel has only two turnover in 133 total minutes. She dished out a career-high eight assists last Sunday at Michigan, and leads the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio in league play at 6.1.
Pickrel has been at the top of her game against the Spartans' four ranked opponents this season. She is averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.8 assists. 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. She also added 21 points vs. No. 23 Dayton, 15 points vs. No. 13 Oklahoma State, and a double-double vs. No. 16 Nebraska with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
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 2.09 (326:156), which is currently first in the MSU record books. So far in 2013-14, Johnson is 18th in the nation, third in the Big Ten and leads the team with 6.2 assists per game, and leads the conference and is third in the country with a 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
In her last 12 games (having led MSU in assists in 10 of those), Johnson has totaled 83 assists (6.9 per game) to only 20 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.
Freshman Tori Jankoska made a quick impression on the 2013-14 Spartan season, and has been hot of late for MSU. Jankoska is third on the team with 11.5 points, and broke out of a shooting slump after the holidays. Since coming back from the holiday break, Jankoska is averaging 14.2 points over the last five games, shooting 56.0% (14-for-25) 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 were expected to be major contributors this season, but Powers was the first to make an immediate impact. She leads the team with 14.0 points, which is 17th in the Big Ten, 8.0 rebounds, which is eighth in the conference, and 2.0 steals, which is fourth. She is also is averaging 2.1 assists in just 25.2 minutes. Powers is 10th in the conference and first on the team, shooting 50.8%. 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 11 games, she has posted four double-doubles, while averaging 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in 27.2 minutes.
Currently, Powers is the only freshman in the nation to average at least 14.0 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 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.
Powers' 14.0 scoring average is currently the best-ever by a Spartan freshman, while her 8.0 rebounds are fifth.
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 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in only 12.8 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 scored in double figures in three-straight games. For the season, she is fourth on the team with 9.3 points and third with 5.8 rebounds in 24.4 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 nine games, she is shooting 59.0% (36-for-61) from the field, including making 12-straight shots during one stretch.
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 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in only 13.7 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 3.4 points and 2.7 rebounds in 10.7 minutes, and is slowly working back into more significant minutes. She is shooting 45.8% from the field on the year. Hines is shooting 10-for-17 (58.8%) over her last seven games, after starting the year 1-for-7 (14.3%) in her 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 previous six games, prior to sitting out Thursday at Iowa.
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).
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 131-55 (70.4%) in conference play over the last 12 seasons, trailing only Ohio State (138-48; 74.2%) 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 48 of its last 63 Big Ten regular season games (76.2%).
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.
In Coach Merchant's first seven seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 152-67 (69.4%). 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 152 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 73-33 (68.9%), ranking her 10th all-time in career winning percentage in Big Ten games and second among active coaches. During her Spartan career, her 73 conference wins are tied with Ohio State for the most in the Big Ten.
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.
The 2013-14 basketball season is the Spartans' 25th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 257-85 (.751) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 51 of its last 58 games (.879).
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
The Spartans ended their home schedule last season ranked 10th in the nation and second in the Big Ten with 6,352 fans per game. It marked the ninth-straight season that the Spartans have been among the nation's top-15 in attendance, and the third consecutive year their have been in the top-10.
So far this season, Michigan State is second in the Big Ten with 5,987 fans per game.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 10-3 all-time on January 19.