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Spartans Head to Iowa for Lone Meeting of the Season

Freshman Becca Mills was a spark off the bench in Thursday's win, totaling nine points and four rebounds in 17 minutes.

Feb. 11, 2012

Michigan State (15-9, 7-4) at Iowa (15-10, 7-5)
 Date Sunday, Feb. 12
 Time 3 p.m. ET
 Location Iowa City, Iowa | Carver-Hawkeye Arena
 Television Big Ten Network
Kevin Kugler (play-by-play); Lisa Stone (analyst)
 Radio WJIM 1240AM
Rick Berkey (play-by-play)
Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Internet Coverage GameTracker
 Game Notes Michigan State | Iowa
 Statistics Michigan State (html | pdf) | Iowa
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

The Hawkeyes enter the weekend on a four-game winning streak, improving their record to 15-10 overall and 7-5 in Big Ten action. Iowa has played its last two games without leading scorer Jaime Printy, who tore her ACL at Wisconsin. Printy was leading the team with 16.9 points, 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals. Morgan Johnson is second on the team with 14.9 points, while adding a team-best 6.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. As a team, Iowa is averaging 71.6 points a game, fourth in the Big Ten, and lead the conference with a 80.0% free throw percentage.

Michigan State trails the all-time series, 33-24 against Iowa. The two teams split the two meetings last season with each school winning on their home courts. In all, Iowa has won three of the last four contests. MSU is 8-18 all-time in Iowa City, having lost its last three trips to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

LAST TIME OUT (MSU 72, Northwestern 58)
Michigan State used a 12-0 run late in the first half to pull away from Northwestern, and cruise to a 72-58 win at Breslin Center on Thursday night. Porsche Poole surpassed 20 points for the fourth-straight game, leading MSU with 20 points and a career high seven assists. Poole is the first Spartan since Liz Shimek at the end of the 2005-06 season to score at least 20 points in four straight games. It was Michigan State's 16th straight win over Northwestern, and its 26th in its last 28 games in the series.

The Spartans, who have now won three straight games, had four players in double-figures. Senior Lykendra Johnson added 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds, while classmate Taylor Alton had 11 points and freshman Kiana Johnson posted 10. Alton also added a career high tying seven rebounds and three steals. For the second straight game, the Spartans committed only 10 turnovers.

Northwestern was in control for much of the first half, holding a 26-21 lead with 5:52 on the clock. However, the Spartans would score the next 12 points over a span of 5:39 to take the lead for good. Northwestern stopped a run with a layup with 13 seconds to go in the half, bringing the halftime score to 33-28 MSU. The Spartans jumped out quickly in the second half, scoring the first seven points to open a 12-point lead (40-28). MSU's lead grew to as many as 18 (59-41), and remained in double-digits the rest of the way, as the Spartans closed out the 72-58 win.

Over the last two and a half weeks, Porsche Poole leads all Big Ten players with 25.8 points per game and with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, while also ranking second in assists (5.3) and fifth in steals (2.5). She is shooting 55.1% in those four games, good for fourth in the conference.

She has posted four straight games with at least 20 points, the longest streak by a Spartan since Liz Shimek accomplished the feat from Feb. 23-March 18, 2006. Poole is also just the second Spartan since 1994 to have such a streak. The last MSU player to have five-straight 20-point games was Kisha Kelley (Nov. 25-Dec. 10, 1994) during the 1994-95 season.

Poole's four game stretch has included many career highlights. Thursday, in addition to her game-high 20 points, she dished out a career high seven assists. Last Sunday, Poole dropped in the game-winner at Michigan with 3.9 seconds left, capping off a 23-point performance. In what could have been her best all-around game as a Spartan, she also added a career high nine rebounds and a game high five assists (with one turnover).

The week earlier she was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in her career, where she scored career high totals in both games (28 vs. Illinois and 32 vs. Penn State), both high marks for a Spartan this season. Her 60 points over the two games were the most by a Spartan in consecutive games in program history (previous record was held by Kisha Kelley with 59 points on Feb. 9 and 13, 1994). Her 32 points against Penn State are tied for the eighth most in a single-game and the most by a Spartan since Aisha Jefferson scored 34 at Notre Dame on Nov. 29, 2008. Also it was just the 20th 30-point scoring effort by a Spartan.

When Coach Merchant has been asked the key to the recent 3-game winning streak for the Spartans, her answer has been simple, they have scored the ball. In the last three games, MSU is averaging 73.3 points, while shooting 46.8% from the field and 38.8% from behind the 3-point line. In comparison, the Spartans were avergaing 62.1 points, and shooting 38.6% and 31.3% respectively, in the first eight conference games. Also of importance, Michigan State has limited its turnover numbers, turning it over only 12.0 times a game during the winning streak, compared to 17.6 a game in the first eight league games.

As Lykendra Johnson's Spartan career approaches the end, she continues to get to statistical levels that not many Michigan State or Big Ten student-athletes have reached. Currently she is the only Spartan, and one of only five Big Ten student-athletes (since the sport was sponsored in 1981), to surpass 1,000 points, 900 rebounds, 200 steals and 100 blocks in her career.

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 1,147 points in her MSU career, good for 16th place. Johnson will leave as one of the top rebounders in school history, currently second all-time in offensive rebounds (381) and third in rebounds (957). She is also the only Spartan to rank in the top-5 in both career blocks (third with 134) and steals (fifth with 213).

Johnson also is among the Michigan State leaders in each shooting category, ranking ninth in free throws made (281), 16th in 3-point field goals (58) and 18th in field goals (404). She is also seventh in career starts (108), 13th with 123 games played and 14th with 3,169 minutes played.

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 13.2 points per game, which is 18th in the Big Ten. Her +7.1 point increase from last year's average is the fourth largest improvement in the conference so far this season. Poole has scored in double-figures in 16 games and led MSU in scoring 12 times, both team highs.

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 points, rebounds, assists and steals. Poole is also shooting a career best 47.7% from the field, which ranks second on the team and eighth in the Big Ten.

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 16 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 8.4 points, 4.6 assists (compared to 2.3 turnovers) and 1.9 steals. In those 16 games, MSU is +73 with her on the floor, but have been -10 with her on the bench.

Johnson's assist-to-turnover ratio (1.65) is currently the best by a Spartan (with at least 2.0 assists a game) since the 2004-05 season, and ranks as the sixth-best at MSU since turnovers started being recorded in 1984.

Johnson leads the Spartans and is seventh in the Big Ten with 3.9 assists per game, and is third overall with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. She has increased her production in conference games, placing third in both assists with 4.6 and assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.8. Johnson is second on the team in steals with 1.8 a game, 12th in the Big Ten.

Among freshmen nationally, Johnson is 11th in assists and second in assist-to-turnover ratio. Within the conference freshmen, she is first in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in assists and steals, and fifth in points.

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 8.9 rebounds a game, despite playing just 27.4 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.2 and is second in the league with eight double-doubles.

Johnson moved into the top-10 on the MSU career rebounding list last season and is currently third with 957 rebounds, surpassing both Kris Emerson and Allyssa DeHaan over the last two weeks. She is only seven rebounds shy of tying Kristen Rasmussen for second 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 (381) and her 3.1 a game average is second to Liz Shimek (3.4).

In terms of all-time Big Ten rebounders, Johnson is 17th among conference student-athletes since the conference began sponsoring the sport prior to the 1981-82 season. She is only 13 rebounds away from 13th place in conference history. 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 +213 with her on the court, but are -46 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.

Porsche Poole is not the only senior increasing her scoring load over the last couple weeks, Lykendra Johnson has stepped up her scoring efforts in her last five games, averaging 14.2 points over that span. She has scored in double-figures in all five games, tying the longest stretch in her career which was accomplished towards the end of last season.

Entering the Penn State game, Klarissa Bell had played only 7.1 minutes a game, averaging 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds, but in an effort to shake up the team, Coach Merchant inserted Bell into the starting lineup for the first time in her career. She responded with a then-season high seven points, including five key points in the final three minutes, and four rebounds in 30 minutes. Bell followed up that performance with a career day at Michigan, scoring a career high 13 points and grabbing a season high six rebounds (five on the offensive end) in a career high 36 minutes. Bell went 3-for-4 from the 3-point line, after coming into the game just 2-for-14 (14.3%) this season and 7-for-48 (14.6%) in her career. Since being inserted in the starting five, Bell is averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in 32.7 minutes.

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 48-4 (92.3%), including winning their last 31 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 84-8 (91.3%).

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 295 free throws (19.7 a game), in comparison to 13.5 a game in the losses (122 total). In its 15 wins, MSU is +60 in free throw attempts (+4.0 a game), while -83 (-9.2) in the eight losses.

The Spartans have been 41-4 over the last three seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 10-2 mark this season.

Through the first 24 games, MSU leads the Big Ten and is 27th in the country in rebound margin (+6.5). Senior Lykendra Johnson is second in the Big Ten with 8.9 a game. Johnson leads the conference with 3.2 offensive boards.

MSU has out-rebounded 43 of its last 50 opponents dating back to last season, and was outrebounded only four times this season (at Texas, at Penn State, vs. Indiana, vs. Northwestern).

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).

MSU has won 30 of its last 38 Big Ten regular season games (78.9%) 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 113-48 (70.2%) in conference play over the last 10 seasons, trailing only OSU in winning percentage.

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 110-50 (.688) 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 67.9% (55-26), and has the second highest percentage among active coaches.

Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 311-170 (.647) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).

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 seasons under Merchant, MSU is 25-15 (62.5%) in road conference games. They are one of two schools with a winning road record (Ohio State is 23-15).

Michigan State is 11-2 all-time on Feb. 12, but has not lost on this date since 1988, having won its last six games.



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