Feb. 19, 2013
The Wildcats are currently 12-13 on the season, including a 4-8 mark in the Big Ten. Northwestern has a balanced offensive attack with five scorers over nine points per game, led by Kendall Hackney's 14.3 per game. Karly Roser is second in the conference in assists with 6.3 per game, but has also committed 5.1 turnovers a game. Dannielle Diamont is tops on the team with 7.8 rebounds, which is sixth in the conference. Defensively, NU leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage defense (35.0%) and blocks (5.8).
AGAINST THE WILDCATS
Michigan State lead the all-time series with Northwestern, 39-22. The Spartans have won 18-straight games over the Wildcats, and 28 of the last 30 meetings. The 18-game stretch is the longest active winning streak over a conference opponent by any Big Ten school (second is Iowa over Wisconsin- 12 games). During the 18-game winning streak, the Spartans have won by a margin of 18.8 points per game and have held NU to 51.8 points per game. MSU is 22-6 all-time against Northwestern in East Lansing, having won the last 16 in Breslin Center.
LAST MEETING (MSU 67, Northwestern 62 - Jan. 31, 2013 - Evanston, Ill.)
- The Spartans were led by a career-high 21 points from 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 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. It was the best percentage since Nov. 12, 2011 vs. N.C. A&T.
- Michigan State forced 21 turnovers for the second-straight game, and have forced 20.3 per game over the last four.
- The only time this season that MSU won after trailing at the half. It was the largest halftime defciit overcome since Feb. 27, 2011 (7 at Minnesota).
QUICK HITTERS FROM SATURDAY (Michigan 70, MSU 69)
- Jasmine Thomas led the Spartans with a career-high 21 points, going 9-for-15 from the floor.
- Klarissa Bell and Becca Mills each added 15 points, while Kiana Johnson chipped in 12 points. Bell also led MSU with a career-high six assists and seven rebounds, while Johnson went 4-for-6 from 3-point and dished out four assists.
- Michigan jumped out to a 17-8 lead in the first seven and a half minutes, behind 11 points from Kate Thompson. The Spartans answered with a 14-2 run, including 11 unanswered points, to go ahead 22-19, and would take a 32-28 lead into intermission.
- The Michigan State lead grew to six (41-35) in the first three minutes of the second half, but the Wolverines kept clawing back and eventually went on a 7-0 run to go up five, 52-47 with 9:48 to go. Michigan's advantage expanded to nine, 63-54 with 4:31 left, but two 3-pointers from Bell surrounded a Thomas basket, getting the game back within one with 2:13 to go. The Spartans were not able to get a stop on the defensive end in the final minutes, losing 70-69.
- Michigan State shot 51.9% from the field, its highest percentage in a Big Ten game this season.
- he Spartans made a season-high nine 3-pointers for the second straight game, going 9-for-18 (50.0%).
- The Spartans snapped their 12-game winning streak over Michigan.
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 22-5 (81.5%) in the month of February. In Merchant's five seasons, the Spartans are 31-10 (75.6%) 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 124-54 (69.7%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only OSU (133-45; 74.7%) in winning percentage.
During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 66-32 (67.3%) 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 41 of its last 55 Big Ten regular season games (74.5%) 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 19 wins already this season, needing only one victory 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 (25 wins), Connecticut (24), Duke (24), Green Bay (21), Stanford (24) and Tennessee (20) have already reached that plateau, Marist (19) and Middle Tennessee State (18) are within reach, while Bowling Green (16), Ohio State (14), Temple (12) and Vanderbilt (16) 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.
NATIONAL STAT LEADERS
The latest NCAA statistical report was released on Feb. 18. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was 10th in points allowed (51.0), 18th in rebound margin (+8.2), 22nd in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.2%), 22nd in fewest turnovers (13.8), 32nd in scoring margin (+12.7), 39th in field goal percentage defense (35.5%), 39th in fewest fouls (14.0) and 39th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.00).
KNOCKING THEM DOWN FROM DEEP
The Spartans have been more effective from the 3-point line over the last five games, shooting 46.3% (37-for-80), including making a season-high nine in each of the last two games. In the first seven Big Ten games, MSU was 25.9% (29-for-112) from long range. Over the recent hot streak, Kiana Johnson is 7-for-14 (50.0%), Becca Mills is 3-for-6 (50.0%), Annalise Pickrel is 12-for-25 (48.0%), Courtney Schiffauer is 4-for-9 (44.4%), Klarissa Bell is 6-for-14 (42.9%) and Jasmine Thomas is 4-for-10 (40.0%).
The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is 10th in the nation, allowing only 51.0 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 22 of its 25 opponents below their scoring average.
Michigan State has held 13 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 and Michigan's Kate Thompson on Saturday, Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. In all, 23 of the 25 opponents had been held below their scoring average.
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 +8.2 rebound margin, which is 18th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 69 of its last 82 opponents, including 21 of the 25 teams this season.
Overall, MSU is third in the Big Ten offensive rebounds with 13.8 per game, but has increased its production in conference games with a league-best 15.2 per game. The Spartans also lead both rebound percentage categories by a large margin in Big Ten games, grabbed 38.2% of offensive rebound opportunities and 74.1% of defensive rebound chances.
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 22nd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.2%). The Spartans have allowed only 91 3-pointers (3.6 per game) all season, which is fewest in the Big Ten and the 18th fewest in the nation.
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 13.8 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is 22nd in the nation.
The Spartan defense has been more disruptive over the last eight games, causing 17.4 turnovers per game and holding a combined +33 turnover margin. In the first four conference games, MSU only forced only 13.5 turnovers and were -9 in turnover margin.
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 14.0 fouls per game (39th in the nation), and allowing only 13.1 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 78.3% (36-46) 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 57-4 (93.4%), including winning their last 39 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 105-10 (91.3%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 75 of their last 76 games when leading with five minutes left, including a 19-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 117-5 (95.9%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
In Coach Merchant's six seasons, the Spartans are 43-14 (75.4%) following a loss, including a 5-1 record this season.
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 25 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 34.1 minutes.
So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 11.9 points, ranking 23rd in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the conference leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4), minutes (eighth, 35.6), assists (3.1)and rebounds (16th, 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 7.8 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 is currently the only Big Ten player averaging at least 11 points, six rebounds and three assists per game.
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 five games ago vs. Purdue. In her first 16 games, Johnson is second on the team with 10.1 points, and team highs with 3.9 assists, 2.1 steals and an 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in 30.1 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, ranking eighth in the conference with 4.1 assists and 2.3 steals, while scoring 11.1 points, which is 26th. Her 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games, ranks third.
Johnson has led the team in assists in seven of the last 10 games (4.4 per game), including a season-high nine at Northwestern. In the last six games, Johnson is 14-for-31 (45.2%) from the 3-point line, after starting the season 2-for-23 (8.7%) in first nine games.
For her career, Johnson is second in MSU history with a 1.68 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 6.8 points, a team-best 6.6 rebounds (which is 12th in the Big Ten) and 2.6 assists. She is also second on the team and 13th in the Big Ten with 2.2 offensive rebounds per game.
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.
PICK AND POP
Junior Annalise Pickrel started the first 19 games of the season for the Spartans, but has bounced back in forth in the starting lineup since then. Pickrel has scored in double figures in three of the last five games, including leading MSU in points at Northwestern (career-high 21) and No. 8 Penn State (16). Over the last five games, Pickrel is averaging 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.0 blocks in 28.0 minutes. She is shooting 48.0% (12-for-25) from behind the arc.
For the season, the 6-3 forward is third on the team with 9.3 points, while adding 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and committing just 25 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 +6.8 point increase this season is fourth in the Big Ten.
More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 49-for-131 (.374) 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 ninth 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 1.9 steals, while ranking third on the team with 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds. She is 11th in the Big Ten in steals and 13th 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 1.2 a:to margin (78:66), which is 10th in the conference. Over her last three games, Thomas has 12 assists and has committed only three turnovers.
Thomas is shooting 44.7% (34-for-76) in the last seven 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 36 of her last 41 (87.8%) attempts from the free throw line.
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 8.5 points and 5.0 rebounds, fourth on the team, in only 18.7 minutes. She also leads the team and is 10th in the conference with 2.5 offensive rebounds per game. Among Big Ten bench players (10 or less starts), Hines is second in the conference in points and leads in rebounds.
The 2012-13 basketball season is the Spartans' 24th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 248-84 (.747) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 42 of its last 48 games (.875).
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 5,757 fans per game.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 4-10 all-time on Feb. 20.