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Women's Basketball
No. 11 Spartans Look to Clinch Big Ten Title at Illinois Sunday
Junior Taylor Alton has scored in double-figures in each of the last three games for MSU.
Junior Taylor Alton has scored in double-figures in each of the last three games for MSU.

Feb. 19, 2011

No. 11/10 Michigan State (23-3, 11-2) vs. Illinois (7-19, 2-11)
 Date Sunday, Feb. 20
 Time 3 p.m. ET
 Location Champaign, Ill. | Assembly Hall
 Television Big Ten Network
Tom Hart - play-by-play; Patricia Babcock McGraw - analyst
 Radio WVFN 730 AM | Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
Rick Berkey - play-by-play
 Game Notes Michigan State | Illinois
 Statistics Michigan State | Illinois
 Internet Coverage Gametracker
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

The Fighting Illini have lost nine in a row and enter the weeked at 7-19 overall and 2-11 in the Big Ten. Illinois is 2-8 at home this season, including a 1-5 conference mark. Karisma Penn is the lone Illini in double-figures, averaging a double-double with 17.7 points and 10.3 rebounds. She is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring and second in rebounds, while she is also second in blocks (2.5) and fifth in steals (2.2). Lydia McCully is fifth in the conference with 4.1 assists a game.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Illinois, 34-26. MSU has won the last three meetings, including this season's Big Ten opener, and 12 of the last 14 meetings. The Spartans have won six of the last seven games in Assembly Hall, but are 11-15 all-time in Champaign.

In the first meeting this season on Jan. 2, MSU won 70-57 behind Kalisha Keane's game-high 27 points. Lykendra Johnson added a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. The Spartans forced 21 turnovers and had 14 steals, leading to a 25-7 edge in points off turnovers. It was the only Big Ten game this season that MSU was outrebounded.

- MSU closed the game on a 14-2 run over the final 3:28 to seal the win, led by five points from each Kalisha Keane and Taylor Alton.
- Cetera Washington set a career high with 12 rebounds; the first Big Ten game that Lykendra Johnson didn't lead MSU in rebounds.
- With six 3-pointers, MSU broke the program's single-season record for 3-point field goals made (178).
- The Spartans won their 14th consecutive game over Northwestern and 24 of the last 26.
- MSU held a 45-29 edge in rebounding over Northwestern, including 23 offensive rebounds

Michigan State took control of first place in the Big Ten over the past couple weeks at 11-2, two games ahead of Penn State and Wisconsin in the loss column. The Spartans can clinch a share of their third Big Ten regular season title with a win on Sunday at Illinois. The Spartans shared the Big Ten Regular Season Championship in 1997 and 2005, but have never been outright Big Ten Champions. It matches the best 13-game conference start in program history with the 2004-05 and 2006-07 teams. MSU has won 21 of its last 24 Big Ten regular season games, dating back to last season.

The Spartans are one of nine teams in the country to have at least four wins over top-25 opponents so far this season. MSU is joined by Baylor, Connecticut, DePaul, Duke, Louisville, Michigan, Ohio State and Stanford. MSU won at No. 15 Florida State (Dec. 1) and followed that up with a home win over No. 17 Texas (Dec. 5). On Jan. 13, MSU took out No. 16 Iowa at Breslin Center and on Feb. 10, the Spartans won at No. 23 Penn State. MSU is also one of six teams to have at least two road top-25 wins (Connecticut, Georgia, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas A&M).

Based on RPI numbers from, the Spartans are tied for fifth in the country with 10 top-50 RPI wins. UConn has 15 top-50 wins, while Tennessee has 13, Duke is at 12 and Stanford at 11. MSU is 10-3 against the top-50. MSU is also tied for eighth with three top-25 RPI wins.

Michigan State posted its eighth-straight 20-win season with its win over Purdue on Feb. 6. Entering this season, MSU was one of 14 teams in the nation, and one of two in the Big Ten (Ohio State), to have won at least 20 games in each of the last seven seasons. Of those teams, Baylor, Bowling Green, Connecticut, Duke, Green Bay, Marist, Middle Tennessee State, Stanford, Temple and Tennessee have joined MSU in extending their streaks to eight years, while Vanderbilt (18) is close behind. Chattanooga (13) and Ohio State (16) are in jeopardy falling short. Over the span, MSU has 194 wins, second among Big Ten schools to Ohio State's 206.

MSU needed only 23 games to reach 20-wins this season, tied for the fastest to 20 wins in program history (2004-05). All-time it was the Spartans' 12th season of 20 or more wins and Coach Merchant's eighth 20-win season in her career.

...AND 10
The Spartans have won at least 10 Big Ten games for nine straight seasons after their win over Michigan last Sunday. It is the longest active streak in the conference (Ohio State also had an eight-year run entering this season). MSU is 104-43 (70.7%) in conference play over the last nine seasons.

Lykendra Johnson was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Monday for the third time this season. For the week, she averaged 18.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 assists in only 29.0 minutes in a pair of MSU wins, while shooting 57.7% from the field and hitting 2-of-4 from behind the arc. Johnson started the week with a career high 24 points at No. 23 Penn State on Thursday night, also adding 12 rebounds and eight steals, all team highs. Her eight steals were the second most in her career and tied for the sixth most in a single-game in MSU history. She wrapped up her week on Sunday with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in only 21 minutes vs. Michigan. Her rebounds and assists were team highs.

Johnson is just the third Spartan, joining Liz Shimek (2005-06) and Allyssa DeHaan (2007-08) to be named Big Ten Player of the Week at least three times in one season.

Michigan State has won 20 consecutive games at Breslin Center dating back to last season. The streak is the second longest home winning streak all-time. The program record of 23 was set from Nov. 20, 2004 to Jan. 19, 2006. The 20-game home winning streak is currently the eighth longest active streak in the country and the longest in the Big Ten.

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 41-4 (91.1%), including winning their last 24 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 69-7 (90.8%). MSU has held 18 of its last 23 opponents to 60 or fewer points.

Senior Kalisha Keane was added to the 2010-11 State Farm Wade Watch list, announced by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) on Wednesday, Feb. 2. State Farm and the Wade Trophy Coalition each year present The State Farm Wade Trophy to the nation's most outstanding player, who "not only excels athletically but also serves as a positive role model both on and off the court." The list now consists of 32 players selected on the basis of game and season statistics, leadership, character, effect on their team and overall playing ability. The State Farm Wade Watch list will be trimmed to 12 finalists in mid-March.

Senior Kalisha Keane had her eighth 20-point game of the season at Wisconsin on Feb. 3 with a career-high tying 28 points. She is tied for the eighth most 20-point games in a single season at MSU and is sixth in the Big Ten this season. Her 28 points at Wisconsin were the most by a Spartan in a Big Ten game since Vnemina Reese scored 28 points at Minnesota on Feb. 24, 2002.

Earlier this season, Keane scored at least 20 points in three straight games - Richmond, Florida State, Texas. She was the first Spartan since Liz Shimek during the 2005-06 season, when she had four consecutive from Feb. 23-March 18, to accomplish the feat. Keane now has 17 20-point games in her Spartan career.

Each of Michigan State's starters are all averaging career highs in scoring so far this season. Both seniors Kalisha Keane and Brittney Thomas had set their previous highs as freshmen. Keane is averaging a team-best 15.9 points, topping her freshman total of 12.4, while Thomas is third on the team with 8.9 points, a point and a half better than her initial season average of 7.4. Fellow senior Cetera Washington averaged 3.0 points as a freshman and sophomore, and is putting up 5.6 a game this season. Junior Lykendra Johnson (11.7 a game) is almost three points better than her 8.8 point per game average from last year. Junior Taylor Alton, who started her first career game three games ago at Indiana, is averaging 6.4 points, more than four times as many as her previous high of 1.4, set as a freshman. Junior Porsche Poole, who started 10 games earlier this season and is typically the first player off the bench, has also shown improvement in each of her three seasons, going from 3.8 to 4.6 to this season's 6.1.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten in rebound margin and both rebound percentage categories. MSU is +8.9 in rebound margin, which is also 11th in the nation. The +8.9 margin is on pace to top the program single-season record of +7.7 set in 2002-03. The Spartans also lead in both percentage categories, grabbing 72.6% of defensive rebound opportunities and 41.1% of all offensive rebound chances. In all, MSU is tops with 15.7 offensive rebounds a game.

MSU has outrebounded its last 12 opponents and 18 of its last 19. Over the last 12 games, MSU is +11.4 a game on the boards, and have improved its percentages to 42.4% of offensive rebounding opportunities and 77.2% of defensive board chances. The Spartans have also controlled the offensive boards over the last 12 games with a 16.3-7.3 edge per game in offensive rebounds, including a 186-68 advantage on second chance points.

Junior Lykendra Johnson has had at least eight rebounds in all 13 Big Ten games, leading MSU 12 of the 13 contests. Johnson is currently second in the Big Ten in conference games with 11.3 a game and fourth overall with 9.0. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds in both overall games (4.1) and Big Ten contests (4.9).

Johnson moved into the top-10 on the MSU career rebounding list on Sunday despite being only a junior. She is currently 10th with 684 rebounds, and is only eight rebounds away from tying for ninth. 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 fourth most offensive rebounds all-time (277) and her 3.0 a game average is second to Liz Shimek (3.4). Her 105 offensive rebounds so far this season are fourth on the MSU single-season list.

Johnson has twice set her career high this season with 17 rebounds, first at Michigan (Jan. 9), then again on Sunday vs. Minnesota. The 17 rebounds were the most by a Spartan since Allyssa DeHaan grabbed 18 vs. Cal State Northridge on Dec. 22, 2006. In the Michigan game, she also grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. The 10 offensive boards were the second most in program history (the stat began being recorded in 1986-87) and the most since March 16, 2002.

Junior Lykendra Johnson has been a do-it-all for the Spartans this season, and has increased her production in Big Ten play. In conference games, Johnson and Illinois' Karisma Penn are the only two players to rank among the conference leaders in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. Johnson leads MSU in Big Ten games with 11.3 rebounds (second in Big Ten), 2.7 steals (first in the conference), 1.5 blocks (eighth in league), 4.9 offensive rebounds (leads the conference) and a 47.9 field goal percentage (eighth in Big Ten). She is one of four Big Ten players averaging a double-double, also adding 14.0 points, which is second on the team and 12th in the league. Johnson has six double-doubles in Big Ten games, tied for the third most in the conference.

Leading the Spartans from the foul line are senior Brittney Thomas and Kalisha Keane, who are both shooting over 80% on the season and are among the top-10 in the Big Ten. Thomas has made 32 of her last 35 (91.4%) over the last 11 games, including a school record 14-of-15 vs. Purdue on Feb. 6. Keane is 24-of-28 (85.7%) in her last nine games.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten with 10.3 steals per game, and have three Spartans among the top-10 individually in the conference rankings. Lykendra Johnson paces the Big Ten and is tied for 39th nationally with 2.7 a game. Kalisha Keane is tied for second with 2.3 and Brittney Thomas is tied for 10th with 1.8. MSU is also second in turnover margin (+2.2) and leads the conference turnovers forced (19.3).

So far this season, three Spartans have grabbed eight or more steals in game. Lykendra Johnson picked up nine at Florida State, tying for the second most in program history. Johnson grabbed eight at Penn State last Thursday and Thomas also had eight vs. Texas, as both are tied for sixth on the MSU single-game list.

The Spartans have relished playing extra time over the past eight seasons. On Feb. 3 at Wisconsin, MSU won its 14th straight overtime games, dating back to the 2003-04 season. The streak is the longest such run among Big Ten schools. Surprisingly, only two of the 14 wins have come at home. MSU's last overtime loss came on Feb. 28, 2002 against Ohio State, 89-82, in the Big Ten Tournament.

In MSU's three losses this season (all on the road to ranked opponents), the Spartans have had a collective poor shooting effort compared to their normal output. In those three games, Michigan State is shooting only 32.0% from the field and 19.1% from the 3-point line for 56.3 points per game, compared to 43.1% from the field, 34.4% from behind the arc and 70.7 points per game in its 23 wins.

The Spartans have made 178 3-pointers so far this season, setting a new program single-season record. The previous record was 176 set in 2004-05. 12 different Spartans have hit a 3-pointer so far, led by 55 from senior Kalisha Keane, which ranks her third in the conference and eighth on the MSU single-season list.

Michigan State tied the school record for 3-pointers in a game with 13 against Iona on Dec. 12. The previous record was set last year against Florida Gulf Coast (Dec. 13). Against Iona, 10 different Spartans hit a 3-pointer, the MSU single game record.

MSU already has six games this season where it has made 10 or more 3-pointers, setting a new single-season record. Since the line was put in prior to the 1987-88 season, Spartan teams have only made at least 10 3-pointers in a game nine times before this season. The 2000-01 and 2009-10 teams each accomplished the feat twice in a season, while the 1992-93, 1996-97, 1998-99, 2003-04 and 2006-07 teams did it once.

MSU combined for 24 made 3-pointers in back-to-back games against Iona and Dartmouth. The 24 makes are the most in a two-game span in program history, breaking the record set earlier this season on two occasions.

Junior Taylor Alton is seventh in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage at 40.7% (37-of-91). Alton has made 11 3-pointers in her last three games, moving her into 15th in the Big Ten in 3-pointers a game (1.5). She entered the season making only 19.0% (4-of-21) of her 3-pointers as a freshman and sophomore. Alton, who started her first career game three games ago at Indiana (Jan. 20), has hit multiple 3-pointers in 10 games this season, including at least three on six occasions.

Senior Kalisha Keane moved into the top-10 on the Spartan career points list on Dec. 10 and is currently tied for eighth all-time with 1,436. Keane is also third in steals (239) and 3-point field goals made (166), fifth in free throw percentage (81.1%), eighth in games played (129) and minutes played (3,399), 10th in field goals made (515), 13th in free throws made (240) 14th in 3-point field goal percentage (32.4%), assists (285) and games started (87) and 19th in blocks (43).

Classmate Brittney Thomas moved into the top-5 in career assists at MSU on Thursday, and is fifth all-time with 382 assists. Her 382 career assists are second among active conference student-athletes, trailing Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis. Thomas is also fourth all-time in 3,794 minutes played, fifth with 115 games started and 10th with 191 steals. Keane and Thomas are the top-two active career steal leaders in the Big Ten with 239 and 191, respectively.

Senior Kalisha Keane is the only active Big Ten student-athlete to have surpassed 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in their career. She is currently fourth among active conference players in points, seventh in rebounds, fourth in assists and first in steals. Keane and Kristin Haynie are the only two Spartans to have reached those career numbers.

The Spartans lead the Big Ten in RPI, ranking ninth according to and 10th by In the RPI released by the NCAA on Monday, the Spartans also checked in at 10th. As a conference, the Big Ten is first in overall strength of schedule by both internet sites. has the Big Ten as first in non-conference RPI, but fifth in overall RPI.

Head coach Suzy Merchant, who won the most games by a Spartan coach over their first three seasons, is 91-38 (.705) since her arrival prior to the 2007-08 season. All-time, Merchant is 292-158 (.649) in her 16 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).

Michigan State is 3-10 all-time on Feb. 20.




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