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Spartans Return Home Thursday to Face Illinois

Freshman Kiana Johnson scored 14 second half points Monday at No. 13 Purdue.

Jan. 25, 2012

Michigan State (12-8, 4-3) vs. Illinois (6-14, 0-7))
 Date Thursday, Jan. 26
 Time 6 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television Big Ten Network
Dave Eanet (play-by-play); Lisa Stone (analyst); Megan Bower (sidelines)
 Radio WJIM 1240AM
Rick Berkey (play-by-play); Mo Gerhardt (analyst)
Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Internet Coverage GameTracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Tickets Available on
 Game Notes Michigan State | Illinois
 Statistics Michigan State (html | pdf) | Illinois
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

The Fighting Illini went the week with a 6-14 overall record and are 0-7 in the Big Ten. Although they are winless in the conference, they have lost their last six games by only 5.0 points a game. Karisma Penn leads Illinois with 15.2 points and 7.9 rebounds, while shooting 52.4% from the field. Kersten Magrum is second on the team with 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds. Lydia McCully leads in assists with 3.5 a game and steals with 2.0.

Michigan State leads the all-time series 35-26 against Illinois. The Spartans have won the last four meetings, and 13 of the last 15 games. MSU is 20-8 at home against the Illini, including winning the last six matchups in Breslin Center.

Tonight's game will mark the fourth of at least six games for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 29-16 all-time on BTN, including a 1-2 mark so far this season.

LAST TIME OUT (Purdue 67, MSU 49)
Michigan State struggled offensively in the first half, falling to No. 13 Purdue, 67-49 on Monday in West Lafayette, Ind. The Spartans shot 23.1% in the first 20 minutes, scoring a season low 15 minutes. Senior Lykendra Johnson led MSU, posting her sixth double-double of the season with a season-high 17 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Kiana Johnson added 14 points, all in the second half.

Despite losing its last three games, MSU has won 27 of its last 34 Big Ten regular season games (79.4%) over the past two-plus seasons. MSU's 4-0 start to the Big Ten season was just its fourth in program history (1987-88, 1990-91, 2010-11, 2011-12).

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 110-47 (70.1%) in conference play over the last 10 seasons.

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 1,093 points in her MSU career, good for 18th place.

Currently she is among the program's leaders in many statistical categories, ranking second all-time in offensive rebounds (371), fourth in rebounds (922), fourth in blocks (131), fifth with 205 steals, ninth in free throws made (264) and 16th with 57 3-point field goals. Johnson is also eighth in career starts (103), 14th with 119 games played and 17th with 3,041 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.

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 36-11 (76.6%) following a loss.

Since the trip to Cancun, Michigan State has dedicated itself to causing more pressure on the defensive end. In the last nine games, the Spartans are causing 19.8 turnovers a game, which is more than three above their average in the first 11 games (17.4). MSU's steal numbers are also up to 10.0 during that stretch, and its turnover margin has been +21, compared to a -39 figure in the first 11 games.

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 10th in the Big Ten in free throw shooting (66.0%), Michigan State has made 75.8% (50-66) in the final three minutes (compared to 63.5% 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.

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 tied for first in the Big Ten with 8.9 rebounds a game, despite playing just 26.5 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.4 and is third in the league lead with six double-doubles.

Johnson moved into the top-10 on the MSU career rebounding list last season and is currently fourth with 922 rebounds, surpassing Allyssa DeHaan on Monday at Purdue. She is only 11 rebounds shy of tying Kris Emerson for third 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 (371) 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 +181 with her on the court, but are -27 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.

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 8.1 points, 4.8 assists (compared to only 2.4 turnovers) and 2.2 steals. In those 12 games, MSU is +68 with her on the floor, but have been -20 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.

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 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, compared to 4.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in the non-conference games. Two Sundays ago, 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.

A common theme between Michigan State's wins and losses has been its ability to get to the free throw line. In the wins, MSU has shot 233 free throws (19.4 a game), in comparison to 12.4 a game in the losses (99 total). In its 12 wins, MSU is +55 in free throw attempts (+4.6 a game), while -86 (-10.8) in the eight losses.

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%).

The Spartans are off to a positive start on the boards early in the 2011-12 season. Through the first 20 games, MSU leads the Big Ten and is 28th in the country in rebound margin (+7.0). Senior Lykendra Johnson is tied for first in the Big Ten with 8.9 a game. Johnson leads the conference with 3.4 offensive boards.

MSU has out-rebounded 40 of its last 46 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 107-49 (.686) 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 67.5% (52-25), and has the second highest percentage among active coaches.

Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 308-169 (.646) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).

The 2011-12 basketball season is the Spartans' 23rd inside the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. MSU has an all-time record of 233-81 (.742) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 27 of its last 30 games (.900).

For the past seven-plus seasons, Michigan State has been one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. Last season marked the seventh straight season that the Spartans had been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 7,388 fans per game, which ranked ninth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. It set a new single-season attendance record, previously 6,787 in 2005-06, and tied for the highest nationally ranking (2006-07).

Michigan State had its first official sellout in program history last season vs. Michigan (Feb. 13) with a crowd of 14,797. It was the first sellout by a Big Ten school since Feb. 29, 2004 (Penn State), and just the ninth by a Big Ten school in their current home venue. With the sellout, the Spartans were the Big Ten Conference winner of the NCAA's Pack the House initiative.

In the 23-year history at Breslin, 1,241,859 fans have watched a MSU women's basketball game. So far this season, MSU is second in the Big Ten with 6,786 fans a game.

Michigan State is 5-4 all-time on January 26.



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