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Spartans Remain at Home to Host No. 18 Penn State Sunday

Junior Jasmine Thomas has played a career high 38 minutes in each of the last two games.

Jan. 28, 2012

Michigan State (12-9, 4-4) vs. No. 18/19 Penn State (16-4, 6-2)
Alumni Day
 Date Sunday, Jan. 29
 Time 3 p.m. ET
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Television ESPN2
Brenda VanLengen (play-by-play); Kayte Christensen (analyst)
 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 | Penn State
 Statistics Michigan State (html | pdf) | Penn State
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

The Nittany Lions are riding a five-game winning streak since their loss to the Spartans on Jan. 7. Penn State, ranked No. 18 by the AP and No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll, is 16-4 overall and tied for third in the Big Ten at 6-2. Maggie Lucas is third in the Big Ten and 17th in the nation with 19.8 points per game, leading the PSU offense which is ranked second in the Big Ten with 76.1 points per game. Alex Bentley is second with 15.2 points and leads the team with 5.5 assists and 3.2 steals. Nikki Greene is tops on the boards, averaging 8.3.

Michigan State trails the all-time series, 24-12 against Penn State, but has had better success of late, winning three in a row, six of the last seven and nine of the last 12. MSU beat the Nittany Lions earlier this season, 75-65 in University Park. The Spartans are 7-8 all-time against PSU in East Lansing, and have won four of the last five.

FIRST MEETING (MSU 75, PSU 65 - Jan. 7)
Behind a dominating first half performance, Michigan State beat No. 19 Penn State, 75-65, in front of a national television audience on CBS. Taylor Alton (20 points) and Kiana Johnson (18 points) each scored career highs leading the Spartans. Alton, despite feeling under the weather, went 6-for-9 from behind the arc, tying for the fourth most 3-point field goals made in a MSU single game.

K. Johnson also dished out a team best five assists in the win. Porsche Poole added 12 points in the win, while Lykendra Johnson posted her fifth double-double of the season with 10 points and 15 rebounds. The Spartans hit a season high 11 3-pointers, shooting 47.8% from behind the arc. MSU also forced Penn State into a season high 25 turnovers and picked up 14 steals.

The Spartans were impressive in the first half, taking a 46-24 lead into the break. Michigan State knocked down 8-for-11 from behind the arc and forced PSU into 14 turnovers. Penn State opened with a brief 4-3 lead, but MSU would go on a 15-5 run and not trail again. The Spartans put together another extended run later in the half, this time an 11-0 spurt over nearly six minutes, to go up 33-15 with under four minutes to go. The Green and White kept its foot on the pedal, going into the break up 22 after a 3-pointer by L. Johnson in the final seconds.

Penn State fought back in the final 20 minutes, behind 28 second half points from Maggie Lucas. The Spartans led by 17 (63-46) with 8:42 left, but the Lions went on a 15-2 run to cut the MSU lead to four (65-61) with 3:15 to go. However, PSU would not get any closer, as K. Johnson scored eight of the Spartans last 10 points, including hitting all six of her free throws, down the stretch to seal the victory.

LAST TIME OUT (Illinois 71, MSU 62 OT)
The Spartans' second half comeback was not enough, as Michigan State fell 71-62 in overtime to Illinois on Thursday night at Breslin Center. MSU fell behind by as many as 15 in the first half, and used a 21-2 run to begin the second half to gain the lead, but were unable to put away the Illini. Porsche Poole led Michigan State with a career high 28 points, the most by a Spartan this season. She also added three assists and three steals. Kiana Johnson chipped in 11 points, a season-high seven rebounds and five assists. Lykendra Johnson also topped double-figures, scoring 10 points and grabbing a season high six steals.

Another sluggish start offensively by the Spartans, combined with a 9-0 run by Illinois late in the half, put Michigan State in a 35-21 hole at intermission. Michigan State scored the first 12 points of the second half, led by seven from Poole, and compiled a 21-2 run over the first eight minutes to open up a five point lead. The Illini came back and tied the game on five occasions, eventually taking a 56-55 lead with 1:12 to go. Poole came down and drilled a foul line jumper to put MSU back ahead at 57-56 with 54 seconds on the clock. After a shot clock violation, Poole hit only one of two free throws, allowing Illinois a chance to tie in the final seconds. Adrienne Godbold would make a putback layup with nine seconds left, forcing overtime. Illinois controlled overtime from the tip, going home with a 71-62 victory.

With Thursday's overtime loss vs. Illinois, the Spartans snapped a 15-game winning streak in overtime games. MSU had not lost in overtime in nearly 10 years, with its last loss coming on Feb. 28, 2002 against Ohio State, 89-82, in the Big Ten Tournament. The streak was the longest active streak among Big Ten schools. The loss also ended a string of 49 wins when leading with five minutes remaining. MSU had been 11-0 this season with a lead at the five minute mark in the second half.

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 1,103 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 (926), fourth in blocks (131), fifth in steals (211), ninth in free throws made (268) and 16th with 57 3-point field goals. Johnson is also eighth in career starts (104), 13th with 120 games played and 17th with 3,071 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.

Since the trip to Cancun, Michigan State has dedicated itself to causing more pressure on the defensive end. In the last 10 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 10.5 during that stretch, and its turnover margin has been +18, compared to a -39 figure in the first 11 games.

Senior Lykendra Johnson has totaled 14 steals in her last three games (4.7 a game), and has moved into seventh place in the Big Ten with 2.1 a game. In conference games, she is tied for second with 3.3 a game.

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 8.7 rebounds a game, despite playing just 26.7 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.2 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 926 rebounds, surpassing Allyssa DeHaan on Monday at Purdue. She is only seven 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 +169 with her on the court, but are -24 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 13 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 8.3 points, 4.8 assists (compared to 2.5 turnovers) and 2.1 steals. In those 13 games, MSU is +62 with her on the floor, but have been -21 with her on the bench.

Johnson leads the Spartans and is seventh in the Big Ten with 4.0 assists per game, and is fourth overall with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. She has increased her production in conference games, tying for third in assists with 5.0. Johnson is second on the team in steals with 2.0 a game, tying for eighth in the Big Ten.

Among freshmen nationally, Johnson is 11th in assists and third in assist-to-turnover ratio.

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. So far this season, she leads the team with 11.5 points per game, which is among the top-25 in the Big Ten. Poole has scored in double-figures in 13 games and led MSU in scoring nine times. She is coming off a career high 28 points vs. Illinois on Thursday, the most points by a Spartan since Kalisha Keane scored 28 on Feb. 3, 2011.

Poole has also set career high marks in almost every statistical category so far this season. She has already topped her season high totals in rebounds and assists, and is only one steal shy of her freshman career-high total. Poole is also shooting a career best 45.5% from the field, which ranks second on the team. Coming into the season as a 61.2% free throw shooter, she is fourth on the team with a 71.0% mark this season, and has already made 17 more free throws than she made all of last season.

Junior Courtney Schiffauer struggled 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 6.5 points and 5.4 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.

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%).

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 13.5 a game in the losses (122 total). In its 12 wins, MSU is +55 in free throw attempts (+4.6 a game), while -83 (-9.2) in the eight losses.

The Spartans have been 39-4 over the last three seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 8-2 mark this season.

The Spartans are off to a positive start on the boards early in the 2011-12 season. Through the first 21 games, MSU leads the Big Ten and is 27th in the country in rebound margin (+6.8). Senior Lykendra Johnson is tsecond in the Big Ten with 8.7 a game. Johnson leads the conference with 3.2 offensive boards.

MSU has out-rebounded 41 of its last 47 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).

The 2011-12 basketball season is the Spartans' 23rd inside the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. MSU has an all-time record of 233-82 (.740) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 27 of its last 31 games (.871).

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, 1,248,739 fans have watched a MSU women's basketball game. So far this season, MSU is second in the Big Ten with 6,796 fans a game.

Michigan State is 7-4 all-time on January 29, but has not lost on the date since 1993, winning its last four.



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