Women's Basketball Looks to Bounce Back Against Illinois
Jan. 22, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Looking to bounce back from its first conference loss and remain in first place in the Big Ten, the Michigan State women's basketball team hosts Illinois on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The Spartans (12-6, 4-1) have won five of the last six meetings, and 16 of the last 20 games against the Fighting Illini (8-10, 1-4).
AGAINST THE FIGHTING ILLINI
Jasmine Hines is averaging 12.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in 21.5 minutes in her two meetings with Illinois, including her lone career double-double (18 points, 13 rebounds) last season. Kiana Johnson has posted a line of 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in her two games. Klarissa Bell scored 18 points last season vs. Illinois, after scoring only two points combined in her first three games against the Illini.
LAST MEETING (MICHIGAN STATE 79, ILLINOIS 75 - Jan. 13, 2013 - Champaign, Ill.)
QUICK HITTERS FROM SUNDAY (No. 16/17 PENN STATE 66, MICHIGAN STATE 54)
Already this season, the Spartans have scored 80 or more points in eight of their 18 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 18 games. It is the most in a single-season since 2011-12. All of last season, MSU shot over 50% on only five occasions.
The Spartans have also been effective against the opposition's leading scorer during this nine-game stretch as well. The nine team's leading scorers have combined to shoot 35.9% (46-for-128), while averaging 12.9 points, almost four points below their combined season averages (16.8). In conference play, MSU has faced the top-three scorers in the Big Ten. Minnesota's Rachel Banham (21.2) was held to 13 points on 6-for-19 shooting, Nebraska's Jordan Hooper had 21 points, but only went 9-for-22 from the field, and Penn State's Maggie Lucas (21.2) had 16 points on 5-for-19 shooting.
DISHING IT OUT
Junior Kiana Johnson, who is third in the Big Ten and 16th in the nation with 6.3 assists per game, has been a major contributor to the high assist total. In the 16 games she has played, the Spartans are averaging 18.1 assists, while in the two games she missed (Florida State and Virginia Tech) the team averaged only 11.5 assists.
HELP OFF THE BENCH
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
For the year, MSU has 11 total double-doubles. All of last year, the Spartans only had four. It is the most in a season since having 12 in 2010-11.
Johnson's double-double was the first by a Spartan using assists since Kristin Haynie on March 27, 2005 vs. Vanderbilt.
COMFORTABLE AT HOME
Individually, redshirt freshman Aerial Powers leads the team in Breslin Center scoring with 16.0 points and rebounding with 9.7, 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 13.6 points, while shooting 43.1% (22-for-51) 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 64.3% (18-for-28) from 3-point and 61.0% from the field at home and 34.8% (16-for-46) from 3-point and 40.6% overall on the road.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
After getting out-rebounded by 23 in its opener at Notre Dame, Michigan State has a +8.5 rebound margin in its last 17 games. For the season, the Spartans are +6.7 on the glass to rank fourth in the Big Ten.
MSU has out-rebounded 88 of its last 109 opponents (80.7%).
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.
CLOSING IT OUT
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
As a starter, Bell has helped Michigan State to a 45-18 record, while averaging 9.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 33.7 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 fourth on the team with 8.9 points, but is second in assists (3.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6), fourth in steals (0.9) and rebounds (5.5). She is fifth 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 six losses, she is averaging 7.5 points and 2.7 assists, while shooting 34.0%.
PICK AND POP
Pickrel has begun her senior season on a high note, building off her success last season. Through 18 games, she leads the team with 14.0 points and 1.2 blocks, while also second in rebounds (7.1) and third in assists (2.7) in 32.8 minutes. Pickrel is shooting 49.4% from the field, 45.9% from the 3-point line (34-for-74) and 75.0% 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 is fifth the conference at 45.9% and is 11th with 1.9 3-pointers.
Pickrel is currently eighth in Spartan history with 118 3-point field goals made, while ranking fourth with a career 37.6% 3-point field goal percentage.
Through five Big Ten games, Pickrel has only two turnovers in 169 total minutes. She dished out a career-high eight assists at Michigan and has a 13:2 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games. Pickrel has been at the top of her game against the Spartans' five ranked opponents this season. She is averaging 16.2 points and 8.4 rebounds. 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. Against No. 16 Penn State, she led MSU with 17 points.
TAKING CARE OF THE ROCK
In her last 13 games (having led MSU in assists in 11 of those), Johnson has totaled 91 assists (7.0 per game) to only 25 turnovers. 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.
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)
Both players were expected to be major contributors this season, but Powers was the first to make an immediate impact. She is second on the team with 13.9 points, which is 20th in the Big Ten, and leads the team with 8.1 rebounds, which is eighth in the conference, and 1.9 steals, which is seventh. She is also is averaging 2.1 assists in just 25.0 minutes. Powers is ninth in the conference and first on the team, shooting 51.1%. 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 12 games, she has posted fivedouble-doubles, while averaging 15.4 points and 9.1 rebounds in 26.7 minutes.
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' 13.9 scoring average is currently the best-ever by a Spartan freshman, while her 8.1 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 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in only 12.4 minutes.
HOLDING DOWN THE POST
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 a recent stretch where she scored in double figures in three-straight games. For the season, she is fourth on the team with 8.9 points and third with 5.9 rebounds in 24.5 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.
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 3.1 points and 2.8 rebounds in 10.5 minutes, and is slowly working back into more significant minutes.
WORTH THE WAIT
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 12.1 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.2 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).
ANOTHER STREAK EXTENDED
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 64 Big Ten regular season games (75.0%). The Spartans started this season 4-0 in Big Ten action for the fifth time in program history (1987-88, 1989-90, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14).
FIVE CONSECUTIVE INVITATIONS TO THE BIG DANCE
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 conference games, she is 73-34 (68.2%), ranking her 11th 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.
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
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ON THIS DATE
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