Feb. 12, 2013
The Hoosiers have lost nine straight games and enter the week at 10-14 overall and 1-10 in the Big Ten. Indiana, who is last in the conference with 55.3 points per game, is led by Aulani Sinclair's 16.3 points, while Jasmine McGhee is averaging 11.8 points and a team-best 6.0 rebounds.
AGAINST THE HOOSIERS
Michigan State leads the all-time series against Indiana, 42-23, and have won the last six meetings, and 16 of the last 19. The Spartans are 18-11 in Breslin Center against IU. MSU won last season in East Lansing, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Hoosiers in Breslin.
Kiana Johnson has enjoyed playing against the Hoosiers in her first two seasons. In four games, she has posted 29 assists (7.3 per game) and only seven turnovers in 31.8 minutes, including a career-high 10 assists at home against IU on Jan. 12, 2012. She scored a team-high 15 points at IU earlier this season.
MERCHANT AGAINST MILLER
Head coach Suzy Merchant and new Indiana head coach Curt Miller have a long history, dating back to their years in the MAC. Merchant is 8-4 all-time against Miller. While head coach at Eastern Michigan, Merchant was 5-4 against Miller's Bowling Green squad. Since talking over at MSU, the Spartans faced Bowling Green twice in the postseason. In 2008, MSU beat the Eagles 74-66 in the first round of the WNIT and in 2010, the Spartans knocked off BGSU 72-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Merchant won the first meeting this season, 56-46 in Bloomington.
LAST MEETING (MSU 56, IU 46 - Jan. 20, 2013 - Bloomington, Ind.)
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
QUICK HITTERS FROM SUNDAY (No. 8 Penn State 71, MSU 56)
- Michigan State were led by 16 points from Annalise Pickrel. Pickrel went 6-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-8 from the 3-point arc, in 26 minutes off the bench. MSU lost for the first time this season when Pickrel scored in double figures.
- Courtney Schiffauer had nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds. She has led MSU in rebounds in each of the last two games.
- Jasmine Thomas led the squad with five assists, while adding eight points and two steals. Thomas led MSU in assists for the first time since the Big Ten opener.
- MSU led 20-11 with 7:36 to go in the first half, but PSU followed with a 42-14 to open its largest lead at 53-34 with 12:15 left.
- The Spartans battled back to get within eight (62-54) with under four minutes to go, but did not get any closer.
- MSU outrebounded PSU 41-33, including a 26-8 advantage in the second half.
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-plus seasons, Michigan State is 21-4 (84.0%) in the month of February. In Merchant's five seasons, the Spartans are 30-9 (76.9%) in the month.
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 reach 10 conference wins this season). MSU is 123-53 (69.9%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only OSU (133-44; 75.1%) in winning percentage.
During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 65-31 (67.7%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-68), while her winning percentage is 11th-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 40 of its last 53 Big Ten regular season games (75.5%) 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.
NINE CONSECUTIVE 20-WIN SEASONS
MSU has 18 wins already this season, needing only two victories for its 10th consecutive 20-win season. Currently, MSU is one of 13 teams in the nation, and one of two in the Big Ten, to have won at least 20 games in each of the last nine seasons. Of the other 12 schools, Baylor (22 wins), Connecticut (22), Duke (22) and Stanford (22) have already reached that plateau, Green Bay (19), Marist (17), Middle Tennessee State (18) and Tennessee (19) are within reach, while Bowling Green (15), Ohio State (14), Temple (11) and Vanderbilt (15) have some work to do.
In Coach Merchant's first five seasons at MSU, the Spartans went 115-53 (.685). The 115 wins are the second most in the conference during that span, while the total is also the sixth-most by a Big Ten coach all-time in their first five seasons at the helm. In addition, her winning percentage is the 10th-best among Big Ten coaches all-time.
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
In Coach Merchant's six seasons, the Spartans are 42-14 (75.0%) following a loss, including a 4-1 record this season.
WIN V. LOSS
The Spartans have struggled offensively this season in their losses. Michigan State is averaging 65.2 points, while shooting 42.8% from the field and 32.5% from 3-point in its 18 wins, while in the four losses, MSU is averaging 56.0 points, 31.5% field goal percentage and 25.9% 3-point shooting.
Klarissa Bell and Annalise Pickrel have seen large differences in their production in MSU's wins and losses. Bell is averaging 12.9 points and 3.2 assists, while shooting 46.4% in the wins, but only 7.0 points, 1.8 assists and 30.6% in the losses. Meanwhile, in the wins, Pickrel is averaging 10.4 points, making 2.3 3-pointers per game at a 39.4% clip, and in the losses is averaging 6.4 points and shooting 25.0% from behind the arc with only 1.0 makes per game.
NATIONAL STAT LEADERS
The latest NCAA statistical report was released on Feb. 11. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was ninth in points allowed (50.6), 17th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.7%), 19th in rebound margin (+8.3), 26th in field goal percentage defense (34.9%), 30th in fewest turnovers (14.2), 33rd in scoring margin (+12.6) and 35th in fewest fouls (13.9).
The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is ninth in the nation, allowing only 50.6 points per game. (Connecticut leads at 46.8 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 the first meeting with 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 21 of its 23 opponents below their scoring average.
Michigan State has held 12 teams under 50 points and six opponents below 40 points this season. Both numbers trail only the 1973-74 teams (14 times under 50 and nine times under 40). Entering this season, the Spartans had only held 32 opponents under 40 points in the first 1,124 games of the program.
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, 22 of the 23 opponents had been held below their scoring average. Including Hooper, the opponent's leading scorers have shot only 31.8% (85-267) 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 +8.3 rebound margin, which is 19th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 67 of its last 80 opponents, including 19 of the 23 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 17th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.7%), while allowing only 83 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 14.2 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is 30th 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 13.9 fouls per game (35th in the nation), and allowing only 13.0 free throw attempts per outing.
CLOSING IT OUT AT THE LINE
Despite being 11th 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 104-10 (91.2%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 74 of their last 75 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 18-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 116-5 (95.9%) 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 23 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 34.3 minutes.
So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 11.6 points, ranking 24th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the top-15 in the conference in minutes (fifth, 36.0) and rebounds (17th, 6.1). She is among the top-3 on the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-pointers made.
Bell has increased her scoring 7.5 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 four games ago vs. Purdue. In her first 14 games, Johnson is second on the team with 10.1 points, and team highs with 3.9 assists, 2.0 steals and a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio in 29.4 minutes. She is also shooting 83.8% (31-for-37) 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 4.0 assists and ninth with 2.2 steals, while scoring 11.4 points, which is 23rd.
Johnson has led the team in assists in six of the last eight games (4.3 per game), including a season-high nine at Northwestern. In the last five games, Johnson is 9-for-23 (39.1%) 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 1.62 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 7.1 points, a team-best 6.9 rebounds (which is 11th in the Big Ten) and 2.6 assists. She is also second on the team and 12th in the Big Ten with 2.3 offensive rebounds per game.
Her distribution of the ball has increase immensely over the last 18 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.
Schiffauer has led MSU in rebounds in each of the last two games, averaging 9.5 per contest.
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 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, fourth on the team in points and third in rebounds, in only 19.8 minutes. She also leads the team and is eighth in the conference with 2.6 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 four games ago vs. Purdue. After limited minutes against the Boilermakers, Pickrel bounced back 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. Against Michigan last Monday, Pickrel came up big defensively with three blocks and two steals in 27 minutes off the bench. At No. 8 Penn State on Sunday, she led the team with 16 points, including three 3-pointers.
Over the last three games, Pickrel is averaging 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks in 29.7 minutes off the bench. She is shooting 50.0% (9-for-18) from behind the arc and 55.6% (15-for-27) from the field.
The 6-3 forward is third on the team with 9.5 points, while adding 4.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and committing just 22 turnovers all year. Pickrel has already topped her single-season high in points, rebounds, assists and steals. She averaged only 2.5 points last season, and her +7.0 point increase this season is fifth in the Big Ten.
More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 46-for-124 (.371) 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 10th 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 1.9 steals, while ranking fifth on the team with 8.9 points and third with 5.3 rebounds. She is 11th in the Big Ten in steals and 14th in assists. 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 has a 1.1 a:to margin (71:65).
Thomas is shooting 41.8% (23-for-55) in the last five games. In her previous nine games, she shot only 20.3% (16-for-79) after starting the year shooting 51.8% (43-for-83) in the first eight games. Also, Thomas has made 32 of her last 37 (86.5%) attempts from the free throw line.
The 2012-13 basketball season is the Spartans' 24th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 247-84 (.746) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 41 of its last 47 games (.872).
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 5,818 fans per game.
CHAMPION IN THE CLASSROOM
Sophomore Becca Mills was the female recipient of Michigan State's Champion in the Classroom award for the winter. The award takes into account the student-athlete's combination of leadership, community service and academic success. Mills and men's soccer's Kevin Cope received the award at halftime of the men's basketball game on Feb. 6. MSU honors one male and female student-athlete during the fall, winter and spring.
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 6-6 all-time on Feb. 13. In their last game on this date in 2011, the Spartans sold out Breslin Center for the first time and beat Michigan, 69-56. Also, today is Klarissa Bell's 21st birthday.