Jan. 23, 2013
The Huskers begin the week with a 13-6 overall record and a 3-3 mark in the Big Ten. Nebraska is receiving votes in both national polls. They are coming off a 84-63 win at Minnesota Sunday, after dropping three of their previous four games. The duo of Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore lead the Huskers offense. Hooper is sixth in the Big Ten in points (17.8) and third in rebounds (8.8), while making 2.5 3-pointers per game, fifth in the league. Moore is ninth in the Big Ten in scoring (15.5), while also ranking fourth in assists (5.5), first in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.1) and third in 3-point field goal percentage (43.2%). As a team, Nebraska is last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (40.1%) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (32.1%).
Michigan State and Nebraska have five common opponents so far this season - Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Penn State and Temple. MSU is 4-1 against that group, while the Huskers are 3-2.
AGAINST THE CORNHUSKERS
Michigan State won the first meeting against Nebraska last season in Breslin Center. Thursday will mark MSU's first trip to Lincoln.
LAST MEETING (MSU 73, No. 23 Nebraska 53 - Feb. 23, 2012)
In the first-ever meeting between the two programs, Michigan State cruised past No. 23 Nebraska 73-53 on senior day last season. Klarissa Bell scored a game- and then-career-high 19 points, including MSU's first seven points, to help MSU open a 28-8 lead in the first nine minutes. Bell went 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Taylor Alton poured in 18 points, including 4-of-8 from behind the arc, while Porsche Poole dished out a career high nine assists, while also adding 13 points.
The Spartans posted a 19-2 run, including a stretch of 15 unanswered, to go ahead 28-8 with 11:18 left in the first. The Spartans shot 62.1% in the first half, including a 7-of-12 effort from behind the arc, as they went to the break up 43-22. A 15-2 Nebraska run cut the Spartan lead to 10 (52-42) with 11:46 left, but MSU regrouped and posted a 15-3 run of their own over the next six minutes to put the game away.
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-plus seasons under Merchant, MSU is 29-16 (64.4%) in road conference games, the best record in the Big Ten during that span. Only Nebraska (7-4) and Ohio State (25-22) 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 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.
QUICK HITTERS FROM SUNDAY (MSU 56, Indiana 46)
- Michigan State won its 10th straight game at Assembly Hall and its sixth consecutive game over the Hoosiers.
- Kiana Johnson posted 15 points, five assists and four steals, all team highs, while playing 36 minutes off the bench.
- Klarissa Bell added 12 points, a team-high eight rebounds and three assists. Jasmine Thomas had eight points and three steals.
- Indiana held an early 6-5 lead (15:24). The Spartans would hold the Hoosiers scoreless over the next 7:34, running off 13 unanswered points to open a lead they would not relinquish.
- The Spartans have held each opponent's leading scorer below their season average. IU's Aulani Sinclair was fourth in the Big Ten with 18.8 points per game, but was held to six points on 2-for-10 shooting.
- Michigan State forced 25 turnovers, tying for the most this season (season-opener vs. UT Arlington).
- MSU was +6 in rebounds and has outrebounded nine straight team and 16 of its 18 opponents this season.
- The Spartans had 19 offensive rebounds, and have averaged 18.5 per game over their last four contests.
- Klarissa Bell has led MSU in rebounds in five of the last six games.
- Kiana Johnson has led Michigan State in assists in the last three games.
- Johnson now has 29 assists in four career games against Indiana.
- Jasmine Thomas went 2-for-2 from the 3-point line. She had missed her last 14 3-pointers (last make Nov. 25 vs. Robert Morris).
- Playing in her home state for the first time, Akyah Taylor went 3-for-3 from the field for a career-high seven points.
CRACKING THE TOP-25
Michigan State entered the Associated Press national poll on Monday, ranking No. 25. The Spartans appear in the top-25 for the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season. MSU also is receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.
10 FOR 10
After going 11-5 in the conference last season, the Spartans have now won at least 10 Big Ten games in 10-straight seasons. They are tied for the longest active streak in the conference with Ohio State. MSU is 121-50 (70.8%) in conference play over the last 10-plus seasons, trailing only OSU (130-42; 75.6%) in winning percentage.
During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 63-28 (69.2%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-65), while her winning percentage is ninth-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 38 of its last 48 Big Ten regular season games (79.2%) over the past three-plus seasons. Dating back to the end of last season, Michigan State has won 11 of their last 13 conference games.
SECOND OR BETTER
MSU finished the Big Ten season tied for second with a 11-5 record last year. The Spartans have finished second or better in each of the last four seasons - winning the title in 2010-11, and placing second in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12.
RECORD SETTING START
With its win at Indiana Sunday, Michigan State tied its best 18-game start in program history with the 2004-05 and 2010-11 teams.MSU began the season 13-1 for just the second time in program history (2010-11). The Spartans also won their first eight games of the season for the first time in program history (1999-00 team won its first seven games).
NATIONAL STAT LEADERS
The latest NCAA statistical report was released on Jan. 20. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was fourth in points allowed (47.7), ninth in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.247), 11th in field goal percentage defense (.331), 14th in rebound margin (+10.0), 16th in fewest fouls (13.3), 18th in scoring margin (+16.3), 27th in fewest turnovers (14.2) and 43rd in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.99).
The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is fourth in the nation, allowing only 47.7 points per game. (Green Bay leads at 46.7 ppg) The Spartans are on pace for the third lowest single-season opponent scoring average, with the top-two marks occuring in the first two seasons on MSU varsity women's basketball - 1973-74 (38.4) and 1972-73 (38.9).
Until Penn State, Michigan State had held each of its opponents below its season average. Nine of those opponents were held to over 20 points lower than their season average. In total, the Spartans have held 16 of its 18 opponents below their scoring average.
MSU has held six of its opponents below 40 points. It already is the second most games under 40 points in a season, trailing only the 1973-74 team (nine times). Entering this season, the Spartans had only held 32 opponents under 40 points in the first 1,124 games of the program.
Against Virginia Tech (Nov. 18) and Albany (Nov. 21), Michigan State allowed only 64 points combined. The total tied the sixth-fewest allowed in back-to-back games in program history. The five lowest totals were all during the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons.
LOCKING DOWN THE LEADER
Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. Each player has been held below their scoring average, by a combined margin of 7.1 points per game. The players have also combined to shoot 29.8% (61-for-205) from the field.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Michigan State led the Big Ten for the third time in four seasons in rebound margin (+6.3) last year, which was 22nd in the nation. The Spartans have been top-40 in the country in rebound margin each of the last four seasons, getting as low as ninth nationally in 2010-11. This season, MSU leads the Big Ten with a +10.0 rebound margin, which is 14th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 64 of its last 75 opponents, including 16 of the 18 teams this season.
Against Illinois (Jan. 13), Michigan State controlled the boards, 49-22. It was MSU's largest rebound margin since Nov. 12, 2011 against North Carolina A&T (+36), and its largest margin in a Big Ten game since Feb. 3, 2005 vs. Northwestern (+28).
In Big Ten games, the Spartans lead the conference with 17.6 offensive rebounds per game. Over the last four games, MSU has averaged 18.5 per game. Both Jasmine Hines (fifth with 3.6) and Klarissa Bell (10th with 3.2) rank among the conference top-10 in offensive rebounds in Big Ten games.
GUARDING THE ARC
Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is ninth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (24.7%), while allowing only 63 3-pointers (3.5 per game) all season.
LIMITING THE MISTAKES
Over Coach Merchant's first five seasons in East Lansing, the Spartans have struggled with turnovers, averaging 17.6 per game. However, in the 2012-13 season, Michigan State has turned the ball over only 14.2 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is 27th in the nation. As a result, the Spartans are allowing only 9.6 points off turnovers, while in turn, posting 16.4 points per game off their opponent's turnovers.
KEEPING THEM OUT OF THE BONUS
Coach Merchant has harped this season on the importance of keeping the opponent off the free throw and out of the bonus. So far, the Spartans have listened to their head coach, committing only 13.3 fouls per game (16th in the nation), and allowing only 11.7 free throw attempts per outing.
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 56-4 (93.3%), including winning their last 38 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 103-9 (92.0%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 72 of their last 73 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 16-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 114-5 (95.8%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
STEPPING IT UP
Growing up in East Lansing and being named Michigan's Miss Basketball as a high school senior, brought about high expectations for Klarissa Bell. 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, she was inserted in the starting lineup on Jan. 29 (vs. Penn State) and started the final 11 games last year. As a starter, including the first 18 games this year, Bell is averaging 11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 34.1 minutes.
So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 12.9 points, ranking 15th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the top-15 in the conference in minutes (third, 36.2), assist-to-turnover ratio (seventh, 1.4), rebounds (11th, 6.9) and assists (14th, 3.0).
Bell is currently the only Big Ten player to be averaging at least 12 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.
Bell has increased her scoring 8.8 points from last season (4.1 ppg in 2011-12), which is currently the best improvement in Spartan history and the largest increase from last year among Big Ten scorers.
Bell has set career highs in points four times already this season - in each of the first two games, pouring in 19 points vs. UT Arlington and 20 at Eastern Michigan, then posting 21 points at NC State and 25 points vs. Iowa. Her 25 points vs. Iowa were the most by a Spartan since Jan. 29, 2012. In the opener vs. UTA, became the first Spartan in over 11 years (Kristen Rasmussen at Cincinnati on March 18, 2000 - 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists) to reach at least 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a game, and also the first MSU player to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists in the same game since Lykendra Johnson vs. Ohio State on Feb. 23, 2011.
Bell has led MSU in rebounds in five of the last six games (9.2 per game), including a career-high 13 vs. Temple on Dec. 29.
DOING ALL THE DIRTY WORK
Senior Courtney Schiffauer may not get all the recognition, but has been a vital part of the early season success for Michigan State. Having moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout her Spartan career, she has finally solidified her spot in the starting five this season. Her numbers have been solid across the board this year with 6.9 points, a team-best 7.0 rebounds (which is 10th in the Big Ten) and 2.7 assists, while compiling a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Her distribution of the ball has increase immensely over the last 13 games, averaging 2.8 assists during the span, including setting career highs three times, after averaging 0.9 assists through her first 96 games as a Spartan.
Over the last 10 games, Schiffauer has posted her first three double-doubles of her career. At Dayton, she posted a season-high 12 points and a career-high tying 11 rebounds; vs. IPFW, she tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds; and at Illinois she had 11 points and again tied her career high with 11 rebounds.
Sophomore Jasmine Hines came to East Lansing as Michigan's high school career points and rebounds record holder. Thrust into a large role than expected as a freshman due to Madison Williams' season-ending injury, Hines was productive when she was on the floor. In only 10.3 minutes per game, she averaged 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds, while shooting a team-best 54.2%.
Again a season-ending injury to Williams increased her playing time this season. So far this season, Hines is averaging 9.9 points (second on the team and 29th in the Big Ten) and 5.2 rebounds in only 19.8 minutes, while shooting a team-best 46.0% from the field.
Hines leads all Big Ten reserves with her 9.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Iowa's Melissa Dixon is second in points with 8.5, while Indiana's Sasha Chaplin is second in rebounds with 4.1.
Hines has picked up her play in the first five Big Ten games, third on the team with 10.6 points and second with 6.6 rebounds (14th in the league), while playing 21.6 minutes. She also has 18 offensive rebounds (3.6 per game), which is fifth in the Big Ten. At Illinois (Jan. 13), Hines had her first career double-double with 18 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. It was also the first time in her career she led MSU in rebounds.
TWO FOR ONE
Sophomore Becca Mills and Jasmine Hines have combined to play the majority of the minutes at the center position. The two have combined for 19.3 points and 10.0 rebounds in 41.2 minutes.
FINDING A RHYTHM
Sophomore Becca Mills struggled offensively over the first couple games of the season, but has turned it on of late, providing another weapon for the Spartan offense. Mills entered the season as MSU's top returning scorer (7.2 points) and rebounder (4.3), but was forced to move from the 4 to the 5 position due to Madison Williams' season-ending injury. It took her some time to adjust, as Mills averaged 7.3 points and shot just 29.8% (14-for-47) from the field in her first six games. Since then, a span of 12 games, Mills is averaging 10.5 points in 21.7 minutes. She has also made 21 of her last 24 free throws (87.5%).
PICK AND POP
Junior Annalise Pickrel got her first career start in the opener vs. UT Arlington, and has proved in the first 17 games that she belongs in that role. The 6-3 forward is fourth on the team with 9.3 points, while adding 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.8 steals per game, and committing just 17 turnovers all year. Pickrel has already topped her single-season high in points, rebounds, assists and steals.
More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 36-for-99 (.364) from 3-point so far this season, after making only 19 in her first two seasons (59 games) and shooting 30.2%. Her 2.0 3-pointers a game is seventh in the Big Ten, while her 3-point field goal percentage is eighth in the conference. With the graduation of three seniors, and the early season suspension of Kiana Johnson, the Spartans needed someone to step up from behind the arc. Those four accounted for 70.0% of MSU's made 3-pointers in 2011-12.
LEADING OFF THE BENCH
Sophomore Kiana Johnson has been an important figure off the bench for the Spartans since her return to the active roster. In her first nine games, Johnson is averaging 9.1 points, and team highs with 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals in 27.6 minutes. She is also shooting 88.9% (24-for-27) from the free throw line.
Her play in Big Ten games this season has increased, ranking eighth in the conference with 4.0 assists and seventh with 2.8 steals, both team highs, while scoring 10.8 points, which is second on the team. She shares the Big Ten lead in league game in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.8. Johnson has led MSU in assists in each of the last three games, avergaing 5.0 during that span.
For her career, Johnson is second in MSU history with a 1.70 assist-to-turnover ratio.
An uncertain role for her senior season awaited Jasmine Thomas as the 2011-12 season came to a close. Thomas was replaced as the starting point guard by Kiana Johnson by the end of the season, and managed to average only 5.0 points and 1.8 assists, while shooting 33.9% from the field, in 21.4 minutes. However, the nine-game suspension for Johnson to begin this season, opened the door for Thomas to step up as the team's leader in her final season.
Thomas has done just that on both ends of the floor, ranking second on the team with 3.4 assists and second with 1.9 steals, while ranking sixth on the team with 8.6 points and third with 5.6 rebounds. She ranks 11th in Big Ten in assists and 12th in steals. Turnovers had been an issue for Thomas, maintaining a negative assist-to-turnover ratio over her first three seasons (160 assists, 183 turnovers), but this season, she is 11th in the league with a 1.1 a:to margin (62:55).
SUCCESS IN THE CLASSROOM
As a team, the Spartans currently hold their highest cumulative grade point average in program history of 3.1735, after finishing the fall semester with a 3.0747 GPA.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 6-7 all-time on January 24.