Feb. 2, 2013
The Wolverines are 16-5 on the season and 5-3 in the Big Ten, but enter the game having lost three of their last four games. Michigan is second to MSU in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing only 52.7 points per game. The Wolverines are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country, leading the league and ranking sixth in the nation with 6.8 3-pointers a game and placing second in the conference in 3-point percentage (38.3%). Three Wolverines are averaging double-digit points, led by 15.2 points from Kate Thompson, which is eighth in the Big Ten. Thompson is second in the nation in 3-pointers per game (3.7) and sixth nationally with a 45.6% 3-point percentage. Jenny Ryan is sixth in the conference with 5.2 assists.
AGAINST THE WOLVERINES
Michigan State lead the all-time series with Michigan, 60-15. The Spartans have won 11-straight games over the Wolverines, and have won 19 of the last 20 meetings. MSU is 31-6 all-time in East Lansing in the series, having won the last 10 in Breslin Center.
LAST MEETING (MSU 65, UM 63 - Feb. 5, 2012 - Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Porsche Poole was the star for Michigan State hitting the game-winning shot with 3.9 seconds left and scoring a game-high 23 points, helping the Spartans win 65-63 at Michigan. Poole added a career high nine rebounds, a game-high five assists and two steals. Lykendra Johnson added her eighth double-double of the season with 16 points, all in the second half, and 11 rebounds. Klarissa Bell scored a then-career high 13 points and added a season high six rebounds, five of which were offensive.
The Spartans begin the game with the first 11 points, behind three different players hitting a 3-pointer. Michigan responded with a 21-4 run to open up its largest lead of the game at 21-15 with 7:44 to go in the first half. MSU bounced back with a 11-2 spurt of its own to regain the lead and eventually take a 30-28 advantage into the break. Michigan scored the first six points of the second half, to begin a half that included 10 ties and nine lead changes. The Wolverines led by four (63-59) with 1:58 left, but the Spartans held them scoreless from that point on. Two free throws by Poole and a layup by Lykendra Johnson with 53 seconds left tied that game at 63. A defensive stop by MSU, set up Poole's heroics. As the game clock and shot clock wound down, Poole dribbled right off a high ball screen, stopping at the foul line and hitting a pull-up jumper with 3.9 seconds left. Michigan missed a halfcourt heave at the buzzer, giving MSU the win.
AGAINST IN-STATE SCHOOLS
Michigan State has had great success against other collegiate programs in the state of Michigan over the past 11 seasons. Since the beginning of the 2002-03 season, the Spartans are 36-1 (.973) against in-state rivals, including a 21-1 (.955) mark under Coach Merchant. All-time, Michigan State is 169-56 (.751) against other Michigan schools.
Every year, Coach Merchant talks about the importance of the "February Fight" as her teams make a push towards the postseason. Over the past three seasons, Michigan State is 20-3 (87.0%) in the month of February. In Merchant's five seasons, the Spartans are 29-8 (78.4%) in the month.
ON BIG TEN NETWORK
Today's game will mark the fifth of at least seven games for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 34-20 all-time on BTN, including a 3-1 mark this season.
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 (who cannot win 10 conference games this season). MSU is 122-52 (70.1%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only OSU (130-44; 74.7%) in winning percentage.
During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 64-30 (68.1%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-65), while her winning percentage is 11th-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 39 of its last 51 Big Ten regular season games (76.5%) over the past four seasons.
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.
QUICK HITTERS FROM THURSDAY (MSU 67, Northwestern 62)
- Michigan State overcame a double-digit deficit to top Northwestern, 67-62 on Thursday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
- The Spartans were led by a career-high 21 points from junior Annalise Pickrel, who went 5-of-7 from the 3-point arc. Pickrel also tied for the team lead with six rebounds and grabbed a career-high four steals off the bench.
- Jasmine Thomas added 14 points, 12 of which were in the second half, on 6-for-8 shooting, and tied Pickrel with six rebounds.
- Kiana Johnson dished out a season- and game-high nine assists and picked up three steals.
- Michigan State has now won 18-straight games over Northwestern, and won its eighth consecutive game at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
- Northwestern scored the first 10 points over the initial 3:52, and held MSU to five points over the first 8:34. The Spartans would claw back and take their first lead at 16-15 with 8:46 until half. The first half would feature four ties before the Wildcats ended the half on a 7-0 run over the final 2:47 to take a 32-26 halftime lead.
- Northwestern scored 11 seconds into the second half to go up eight. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Courtney Schiffauer and Pickrel gave MSU back the lead at 42-41 with under 14 minutes to go. A scoreless stretch of nearly five minutes by the Spartans followed as the Wildcats scored seven unanswered. Michigan State immediately responded with a 19-2 run, including eight points from Thomas, over the next six and a half minutes to open an 11-point lead (61-50) with 3:24 left. Northwestern would not go away, getting back within three, but two free throws by Klarissa Bell in the final seconds iced the win.
- After shooting only 30% in the first half and allowing NU to shoot 50%, the Spartans flipped the numbers in the second half, shooting 56%, including 6-for-8 from 3-point, while holding the Wildcats to 36.7%.
- MSU forced 21 Northwestern turnovers, which led to a 25-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
- MSU shot a season-best 57.1% (8-for-14) from behind the arc, tying for the most makes in a game this season. It was the best percentage since Nov. 12, 2011 against North Carolina A&T (57.5%).
- Michigan State forced 21 turnovers for the second-straight game, and have forced 20.3 per game over the last four.
- Today was the first time this season that MSU won after trailing at the half. It is the largest halftime defciit overcome since Feb. 27, 2011 (7 at Minnesota).
- As Spartan head coach, Suzy Merchant improves to 8-0 in the state of Illinois.
WIN V. LOSS
The Spartans have struggled offensively this season in their losses. Michigan State is averaging 65.4 points, while shooting 42.8% from the field and 32.3% from 3-point in its 17 wins, while in the four losses, MSU is averaging 56.0 points, 30.4% field goal percentage and 23.2% 3-point shooting.
Klarissa Bell and Annalise Pickrel have seen large differences in their production in MSU's wins and losses. Bell is averaging 13.1 points and 3.1 assists, while shooting 45.9% in the wins, but only 7.0 points, 1.5 assists and 28.6% in the losses. Meanwhile, in the wins, Pickrel is averaging 10.7 points, making 2.4 3-pointers per game at a 39.6% clip, and in the losses is averaging 4.0 points and shooting 16.7% from behind the arc with only 0.5 makes per game. MSU is 10-0 this season when Pickrel scores in double figures.
NATIONAL STAT LEADERS
The latest NCAA statistical report was released on Feb. 1. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was eighth in points allowed (49.9), 20th in rebound margin (+8.6), 22nd in field goal percentage defense (34.6%), 24th in fewest turnovers (14.0), 25th in scoring margin (+13.8), 26th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.9%) and 30th in fewest fouls (13.7).
The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is eighth in the nation, allowing only 49.9 points per game. (Connecticut leads at 46.6 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 19 of its 21 opponents below their scoring average.
LOCKING DOWN THE LEADER
Aside from Nebraska's Jordan Hooper, Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. In all, 20 of the 21 opponents had been held below their scoring average. Including Hooper, the opponent's leading scorers have shot only 31.4% (76-242) against MSU.
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 +8.6 rebound margin, which is 20th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 65 of its last 78 opponents, including 17 of the 21 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).
GUARDING THE ARC
Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 26th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.9%), while allowing only 76 3-pointers (3.6 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 14.0 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is 24th in the nation.
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 13.7 fouls per game (30th in the nation), and allowing only 12.6 free throw attempts per outing.
CLOSING IT OUT AT THE LINE
Despite being last in the Big Ten in free throw percentage on the season, the Spartans have been effective in the last two minutes of a game from the line. In the last two minutes, Michigan State is 81.0% (34-42) from the free throw line. Leading the Spartans, Kiana Johnson is 10-for-10 and Jasmine Thomas is 9-for-10, while Courtney Schiffauer is 5-for-6 (83.3%).
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 103-10 (91.2%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 73 of their last 74 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 17-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 115-5 (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 21 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 34.2 minutes.
So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 12.0 points, ranking 21st in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the top-15 in the conference in minutes (fourth, 36.0) and rebounds (16th, 6.2).
Bell has increased her scoring 7.9 points from last season (4.1 ppg in 2011-12), which is currently the second-best improvement in Spartan history and the second-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.
EARNING BACK HER STARTING ROLE
Sophomore Kiana Johnson was an important figure off the bench for the Spartans since her return to the active roster, but slid back into the starting lineup last Sunday vs. Purdue. In her first 12 games, Johnson is second on the team with 10.8 points, and team highs with 4.1 assists and 2.3 steals in 29.6 minutes. She is also shooting 85.7% (30-for-35) from the free throw line.
Her play in Big Ten games this season has increased, leading MSU in points, assists and steals. Johnson ranks eighth in the conference with 4.4 assists and seventh with 2.6 steals, while scoring 12.8 points, which is 17th.
Johnson has led Michigan State in scoring in three of the last four games, averaging 15.8 points, including posting a career-high 22 points at Nebraska. She has also led the team in assists in five of the last six games, including a season-high nine at Northwestern on Thursday. In the last three games, Johnson is 8-for-19 (42.1%) from the 3-point line, after starting the season 2-for-23 (8.7%) in first nine games.
For her career, Johnson is third in MSU history with a 1.61 assist-to-turnover ratio, sixth in assists per game at 4.0 and fifth in steals per game at 1.9.
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 6.6 rebounds (which is 10th in the Big Ten) and 2.5 assists.
Her distribution of the ball has increase immensely over the last 16 games, averaging 2.5 assists during the span, including setting career highs three times, after averaging 0.9 assists through her first 96 games as a Spartan.
Schiffauer has posted her first three double-doubles of her career this season. 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 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds, fourth on the team in both categories, in only 20.3 minutes. She also leads the team and is sixth in the conference with 2.7 offensive rebounds per game.
PICK AND POP
Junior Annalise Pickrel started the first 19 games of the season for the Spartans, but was moved to a reserve role two games ago vs. Purdue. After limited minutes against the Boilermakers, Pickrel bounced back on Thursday to lead the Spartans vs. Northwestern. She posted a career-high 21 points in 36 minutes, going 7-for-9 from the field, including 5-for-7 from the 3-point arc, and adding team-highs with six rebounds and four steals.
The 6-3 forward is third on the team with 9.4 points, while adding 4.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and committing just 21 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 42-for-113 (.372) 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 ninth 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.
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 3.1 assists and second with 2.0 steals, while ranking fifth on the team with 9.0 points and third with 5.6 rebounds. She ranks 14th in Big Ten in assists and 10th 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 (65:61).
Thomas has scored in double figures in each of the last three games (11.3 points per game), marking the first time in her career that she has scored 10+ in three consecutive Big Ten games.
Thomas has made 30 of her last 35 (85.7%) attempts from the line.
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.
The 2012-13 basketball season is the Spartans' 24th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 246-84 (.745) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 40 of its last 46 games (.870).
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
The Spartans broke their single-season attendance record for the second straight season last year, cementing themselves as one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. Last season marked the eighth straight season that the Spartans had been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 7,505 fans per game, which ranked eighth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. It was MSU's highest national ranking.
So far this season, Michigan State is second in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation with 5,545 fans per game.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 5-3 all-time on February 4.