Jan. 21, 2012
The Boilermakers are riding a nine-game winning streak and sit atop the Big Ten with a 6-0 record. Purdue is ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press and 18th in the USA Today/ESPN, holding a 16-3 overall record. Brittany Rayburn leads the Boilermaker attack, averaging 15.0 points overall, and has raised her average to 16.8 in conference games. Sam Ostarello is third in the Big Ten with 8.0 rebounds a game, and is up to 9.7 in Big Ten play. KK Houser leads Purdue in both assists (3.8) and steals (2.6), both ranking among the conference's top-10. Purdue is the top defensive team in the Big Ten, leading the league in points allowed (53.0), steals (10.7), blocks (5.9) and turnovers forced (21.3), while ranking second in field goal percentage defense (33.4%).
AGAINST THE BOILERMAKERS
Michigan State trails the all-time series 34-25, but have won the last five meetings. MSU is only 6-21 in West Lafayette, but have been victorious in each of the last two games, and three of the last four. The two schools only met once last season, a 76-57 MSU win at the Breslin Center on Feb. 6.
ON BIG TEN NETWORK
Tonight's game will mark the third of at least six games for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 29-15 all-time on BTN, including a 1-1 mark so far this season.
LAST TIME OUT (Minnesota 71, MSU 65)
Michigan State lost consecutive games in-season for the first time since Jan. 2010, falling 71-65 at Minnesota on Thursday. The Spartans were led by senior Porsche Poole, who scored 17 points off the bench. Poole was the lone Spartan in double-figures, as senior Taylor Alton chipped in nine points on 3-for-6 shooting from behind the arc, and freshman Jasmine Hines had eight points. Sophomore Annalise Pickrel led MSU in rebounding for the first time in her career, grabbing a career high seven. Junior Jasmine Thomas and freshman Kiana Johnson each dished out four assists. Senior Lykendra Johnson had a season high five steals on the defensive end.
Michigan State never led, falling behind to Minnesota 11-2 in the first six minutes. The Spartans followed with a 13-4 run of their own to tie the game at 15 with 11:31 left in the first half. The run was sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from freshman Becca Mills. The Golden Gophers responded though, coming back with a 14-4 spurt to open up a double-digit lead at 29-19 with under five minutes to go in the first. Minnesota maintained that margin, taking a 38-27 lead into the break. The Spartans could not get any closer than six in the second half, chipping away to that margin on a handful of occasions, but Minnesota would also have an answer. The Gophers would miss some free throws in the final minutes, but MSU could not get a key bucket, dropping its second straight game.
DEFENDING BIG TEN CHAMPIONS
The Spartans are in a 4-way tie with Michigan, Nebraska and Penn State for third place in the Big Ten at 4-2, trailing Purdue (6-0) by two games and Ohio State (5-1) by one game. MSU's 4-0 start was just its fourth in program history (1987-88, 1990-91, 2010-11, 2011-12). MSU has won 27 of its last 33 Big Ten regular season games over the past two-plus seasons.
Michigan State went 13-3 in conference play last year and earned its first outright Big Ten regular season title, winning the conference by two games over Penn State. MSU also shared the Big Ten Regular Season Championship in 1997 and 2005. The Spartans have won at least 10 Big Ten games in nine straight seasons. It is tied for the longest active streak in the conference with Ohio State. MSU is 110-46 (70.5%) in conference play over the last 10 seasons.
A major factor in the Big Ten success of the Spartans under Coach Merchant has been their play away from Breslin Center. In the five seasons under Merchant, MSU is 24-14 (63.2%) in road conference games. They are one of two schools with a winning road record (Ohio State is 23-14).
AGAINST THE NATION'S BEST
Under head coach Suzy Merchant, MSU is 12-14 against ranked teams, but is only 1-3 this season. Since the beginning of the 2004-05 season, the Spartans have 33 wins over nationally-ranked opponents, including 12 over top-10 teams and 17 on either the road or neutral floor.
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
Michigan State has done a great job of bouncing back after a loss over the last couple seasons. The Spartans lost back-to-back games in-season for the first time since Jan. 2010 this past week. Previously, MSU had won its last 13 games in-season after a defeat. In Coach Merchant's four seasons, the Spartans are 36-10 (78.3%) following a loss.
Since the trip to Cancun, Michigan State has dedicated itself to causing more pressure on the defensive end. In the last eight games, the Spartans are causing 20.4 turnovers a game, which is three more than their average in the first 11 games (17.4). MSU's steal numbers are also up to 10.6 during that stretch, and its turnover margin has been +23, compared to a -39 figure in the first 11 games.
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning their last 49 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 11-0 mark this season. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 91-4 (95.8%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
Part of the Spartans' success this season when closing out a game, has been their foul shooting in the final minutes. Despite ranking 11th in the Big Ten in free throw shooting (65.4%), Michigan State has made 77.4% (48-62) in the final three minutes (compared to 62.5% in the rest of the game). Freshmen Kiana Johnson (12-for-12) and Becca Mills (8-for-8) have been the best in the final minutes.
REACHING A MILESTONE
With a 3-pointer early in the first half (16:23) at Texas on Dec. 10, Lykendra Johnson became the 22nd Spartan in program history to surpass 1,000 career points. She has now totaled 1,076 points in her MSU career, good for 19th place.
Currently she is among the program's leaders in many statistical categories, ranking second all-time in offensive rebounds (368), fourth in blocks (131), fifth in rebounds (912), fifth with 202 steals, ninth in free throws made (263) and 16th with 55 3-point field goals. Johnson is also eighth in career starts (102), 15th with 118 games played and 19th with 3,008 minutes played.
Johnson is the first Spartan to total at least 1,000 points, 750 rebounds and 200 steals in her career, and is the only MSU player to currently rank in the top-5 in both career steals and blocks.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
Senior Lykendra Johnson entered the season with the reputation as one of the best rebounders in the nation, and she has lived up to that billing early in the 2011-12 campaign. She currently is second in the Big Ten with 8.8 rebounds a game, despite playing just 26.2 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.4 and is third in the league lead with five double-doubles.
Johnson moved into the top-10 on the MSU career rebounding list last season and is currently fifth with 912 rebounds. She is only seven rebounds shy of tying Allyssa DeHaan for fourth all-time at MSU. In terms of offensive rebounds, she is at an even quicker pace up the Spartan all-time charts. Since the stat began being recorded in 1986-87, Johnson has the second-most offensive rebounds all-time (368) and her 3.1 a game average is second to Liz Shimek (3.4).
Earlier this season she set a career-high with 20 on Nov. 15 vs. IPFW. Those 20 rebounds were the seventh most ever by a Spartan and the most since Kristen Rasmussen grabbed 20 on Dec. 30, 1997. They are also the most in the Big Ten since Penn State's Nikki Greene had 20 on Jan. 23, 2011.
Johnson's value on the floor for the Spartans is undeniable. So far this season, MSU is +192 with her on the court, but are -20 when she is sitting on the bench. In Big Ten games last year, the Spartans were +187 with Johnson on the floor, but -49 when she was on the bench.
Senior Taylor Alton did not see much playing time in her first two years at MSU, totaling 25 points in 19 games. However, eight games into her junior season, Alton exploded for 15 points at Western Michigan, knocking down 3-of-5 from behind the arc. From that game forward she found a role on the team, eventually starting the final 15 games on the Big Ten Championship squad.
After making only nine 3-pointers over her first 25 games, Alton has been the team's main weapon from 3-point range since, recently breaking into the top-10 on the MSU career list, ranking 10th with 98. So far this season, Alton has made 46 3-pointers (2.4 a game), third in the Big Ten. She has upped her average in league games, hitting 3.2 a game (tied for first in the conference), including a career high six at No. 19 Penn State on Jan. 7, which tied for the fourth most in a MSU single-game.
Alton has started the last 34 games, averaging 7.9 points over that span, compared to 3.0 points in her first 35 career games. This season, she is third on the team overall with 8.4 points per game, and second in conference games with a 10.2 average. On Jan. 7, she scored a career high 20 points at No. 19 Penn State. In her career, MSU is 12-0 in games she has scored in double-figures and 5-0 when she leads in scoring.
Freshman point guard Kiana Johnson started the first four games for the Spartans, but lost her starting spot for four games, before regaining the honor for the last eight contests. During her time coming off the bench, Johnson struggled, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.3 assists (compared to 2.3 turnovers), while shooting 26.1% from the field. Since returning to the starting five, she is averaging 7.5 points, 5.0 assists (compared to only 2.3 turnovers) and 2.3 steals. In those 11 games, MSU is +78 with her on the floor, but have been -12 with her on the bench.
So far in Big Ten play, she has nights of 10 and nine assists, both against Indiana. Her 10 assists on Thursday were the 16th most in a single game in MSU history and the most since Brittney Thomas had 10 at Iowa on Feb. 7, 2010. She scored a season high 18 points at No. 19 Penn State on Jan. 7, including scoring eight of MSU's last 10 points in the final minutes.
ACCEPTING A ROLE
Junior Courtney Schiffauer struggles to find playing time last season and early in the 2011-12 campaign. However after the season-ending injury to Madison Williams, Schiffauer approached head coach Suzy Merchant about moving back to the post, a position she originally was recruited to play. After playing solid minutes in the second half at Florida Gulf Coast, she earned a starting spot and has given the Spartans quality minutes since.
Schiffauer has started Big Ten play strong, setting career high rebound marks in each of the first two games, posting nine at Indiana and 11 vs. Michigan. She has increased her production in Big Ten games, averaging 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds, compared to 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in the non-conference games. Last Sunday, Schiffauer reached double figures for the first time since Dec. 18, 2010, a span of 32 games, scoring a team-high 12 points vs. No. 11 Ohio State.
GETTING TO THE LINE
A common theme between Michigan State's wins and losses has been its ability to get to the free throw line. The Spartans are 10-1 this season when attempting at least 16 free throws, with their only loss coming last Sunday vs. No. 11 Ohio State (22 atttempts). In the wins, MSU has shot 233 free throws (19.4 a game), in comparison to 11.7 a game in the losses (82 total).
The Spartans have been 39-3 over the last three seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 8-1 mark this season.
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 46-4 (92.0%), including winning their last 29 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 83-8 (91.2%).
SPLASH IN THE POOLE
Senior Porsche Poole has increased her scoring average in each of her seasons at MSU, averaging 3.8 as a freshman, 4.6 as a sophomore and 6.1 last season. Through 19 games this season, she leads the team with 11.3 points per game, which is among the top-25 in the Big Ten. Poole has scored in double-figures in 12 games and led MSU in scoring eight times.
Poole has also set career high marks in almost every statistical category so far this season. She has already topped her seaosn high totals in rebounds and assists, and is only two steals shy of her freshman career-high total. Poole is also shooting a career best 45.6% from the field, which ranks second on the team and 15th in the Big Ten. Coming into the season as a 61.2% free throw shooter, she is third on the team with a 73.7% mark this season, and has already made 15 more free throws than she made all of last season.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
The Spartans are off to a positive start on the boards early in the 2011-12 season. Through the first 19 games, MSU leads the Big Ten and is 27th in the country in rebound margin (+7.3). Senior Lykendra Johnson is second in the Big Ten with 8.8 a game. Johnson leads the conference with 3.4 offensive boards, while freshman Becca Mills is 12th with 2.1.
MSU has out-rebounded 39 of its last 45 opponents dating back to last season, and was outrebounded only three this season at Texas, at Penn State and vs. Indiana.
Last season, Michigan State led the Big Ten in rebound margin, offensive rebounds and both rebound percentage categories. MSU was +8.4 in rebound margin, which was also ninth in the nation and broke the school's single-season record. The Spartans also topped the league with 15.5 offensive rebounds a game, which tied the previous record (2005-06).
300 AND 100
With the win over Oakland on Nov. 27, head coach Suzy Merchant became the fastest head coach to 100 wins as a Spartan. In her five seasons, she has posted a 107-48 (.690) record since her arrival prior to the 2007-08 season. Both Karen Langeland and Joanne P. McCallie needed 155 games to win 100, while Merchant accomplished the feat in 143 games.
In the 31-year history of the Big Ten, Merchant has the 11th-best career winning percentage in conference games, winning 68.4% (52-24), and has the second highest percentage among active coaches.
Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 308-168 (.647) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).
Last season, the Spartans set a new single-season record by making 221 3-point field goals, shattering the previous record of 176 (2004-05). Twelve different MSU players made a 3-pointer in 2010-11. However, this offseason the NCAA moved the women's 3-point line back to the men's line of 20-feet, 9-inches. It hasn't effected the Spartans to this point, as MSU has made 119 3-pointers (6.3 a game), ranking third in the Big Ten. In conference games, the Spartans are second with 6.5 made 3-pointers a game.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 5-6 all-time on January 23.