Spartans, Huskers Meet for the First Time in Key Big Ten Matchup
MSU and Nebraska are among four schools tied for third at 9-5 in the Big Ten.
Feb. 22, 2012
|Michigan State (17-10, 9-5) vs. No. 23/23 Nebraska (20-6, 9-5)
|Date||Thursday, Feb. 23|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Location||East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center|
Rick Berkey (play-by-play); Mo Gerhardt (analyst)
Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
|Internet Coverage||BTN.com Broadcast | GameTracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)|
|Tickets||Available on MSUSpartans.com|
|Game Notes||Michigan State | Nebraska|
|Statistics||Michigan State (html | pdf) | Nebraska|
|Social Media||@MSU_wbasketball | Facebook|
At the conclusion on Thursday's game, Michigan State's three seniors - Taylor Alton, Lykendra Johnson and Porsche Poole - will be honored for their distinguished four-year careers. In addition, senior members of the Spartan support staff will also be recognized.
The Huskers enter the final week of the Big Ten season in a tie with the Spartans for third place in the Big Ten at 9-5. Nebraska, who is ranked No. 23 in both national polls, has lost three of its last four games to fall to 20-6 overall. The Huskers are led by the duo of Jordan Hooper and Lindsey Moore. Hooper is second in the conference and 18th in nation with 19.7 points, while leading the league with 9.5 rebounds. Moore is seventh in the conference in points (16.1), while placing second in assists (5.4) and fifth in steals (2.3). Nebraska is third in the Big Ten in scoring with 71.8 points, and leads the conference with 7.3 3-pointers a game.
AGAINST THE HUSKERS
Michigan State and Nebraska meet for the first time in two school's history.
RACE TO THE FINISH
With two games to play, the battle for the four first round byes in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament is wide open. Penn State (12-3) clinched at least a share of the regular season title on Monday and the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Ohio State (10-4) is currently second, a game ahead of MSU, Nebraska, Iowa and Purdue who are all 9-5. Michigan has an outside shot for a top-4 seed, with a 8-6 conference record.
LAST TIME OUT (MSU 67, No. 17 Purdue 52 OT)
Needing another signature win, Michigan State dominated No. 17/19 Purdue in overtime to take home a 67-52 win at Breslin Center Sunday. The Spartans hosted their Play4Kay game in front of a crowd of 13,424, the fifth largest crowd in program history. Becca Mills was important off the bench, scoring a game-high 17 points, her most in a Big Ten game, and added six rebounds. Lykendra Johnson filled the stat sheet again, posting her ninth double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while adding a season-high four blocks and two steals. Porsche Poole and Kiana Johnson joined Mills and L. Johnson in double figures. Poole chipped in 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals, while K. Johnson had 11 points, a season-high eight rebounds and seven assists.
Both teams struggled offensively in regulation, going into extra time tied at 49. Michigan State set the tone early in overtime, scoring the first 11 points, and cruising to the important victory. The Spartans were nearly perfect in the overtime session, going 3-for-3 from the field and 11-for-12 from the free throw line, to outscore the Boilermakers 18-3.
Michigan State scored the first four points of the game and never trailed. The first half lead grew to as many as 10, but Purdue kept chipping away, going into the break down 29-23. Purdue would tie the game at 33 with 15:13 remaining, but Mills put together a 6-0 run over the next five minutes to open a lead back up. MSU would remain ahead, leading by four (49-45) with 2:04 left. However, Purdue would hold the Spartans scoreless in the final stretch and would make four free throws to force overtime.
The Spartans held Purdue to 27.9% shooting, including a 1-for-13 (7.7%) effort from behind the arc. MSU was also +11 (50-39) on the glass and forced the Boilermakers in 18 turnovers. After shooting just 6-for-12 in the first half from the foul line, MSU went 17-for-20 (85.0%) in the second half and overtime. The 32 free throw attempts were the most by the Spartans this season.
Over the last four weeks, Porsche Poole is second among all Big Ten players with 20.6 points and 4.9 assists a game, while also ranking fourth in steals (2.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). She has also increased her rebounding to 5.1 a game during the seven-game hot streak.
Over the seven game stretch, she has set career highs in points (32 vs. Penn State), rebounds (9, at Michigan), assists (7, vs. Northwestern) and minutes played (43 vs. Illinois). In addition, she dropped in the game-winner at Michigan with 3.9 seconds left and was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Jan. 31.
She had a streak of four straight games with at least 20 points, the longest streak by a Spartan since Liz Shimek (Feb. 23-March 18, 2006). Poole is also just the second Spartan since 1994 to have such a streak. Against Penn State (32 points) and Illinois (28), she totaled 60 points, which 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.
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARDS
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 27.7 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.2 and is second in the league with nine double-doubles.
Johnson recently surpassed Kristen Rasmussen for second place on the Spartan all-time rebound list, and currently has totaled 985. In terms of all-time Big Ten rebounders, Johnson is 13th among conference student-athletes since the conference began sponsoring the sport prior to the 1981-82 season. On the offensive boards, she also checks in second all-time, grabbing 391, since the stat began being recorded in 1986-87.
Johnson has 26 career double-doubles, ranking her seventh on the MSU career list. In addition, she has 38 double-digit rebound games, placing her fifth in Spartan 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 +228 with her on the court, but are -47 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.
AMONG ELITE COMPANY
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 1,185 points in her MSU career, good for 14th place. Johnson will leave as one of the top rebounders in school history, currently second all-time in rebounds (985) and offensive rebounds (391). She is also the only Spartan to rank in the top-5 in both career blocks (third with 139) and steals (fifth with 218).
Johnson also is among the Michigan State leaders in each shooting category, ranking seventh in free throws made (288), 16th in 3-point field goals (59) and 16th in field goals (419). She is also sixth in career starts (111), 12th with 126 games played and 13th with 3,258 minutes played.
SPLASH IN THE POOLE
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 13.3 points per game, which is 17th in the Big Ten. Her +7.2 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 18 games and led MSU in scoring 13 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 46.3% from the field, which ranks second on the team and 13th 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 19 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 8.2 points and 4.6 assists (compared to 2.4 turnovers).
Johnson's assist-to-turnover ratio (1.68) 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 4.0 assists per game, and is third overall with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. She has increased her production in conference games, placing second assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.9 and third in assists (4.7). Johnson is second on the team in steals with 1.7 a game, 13th in the Big Ten.
Among freshmen nationally, Johnson is 10th in assists and second in assist-to-turnover ratio. Within the conference freshmen, she is first in steals and assist-to-turnover ratio, second in assists, and sixth in points.
Entering the Penn State game (Jan. 29), 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 has responded to average 7.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in 30.3 minutes over the last six games.
In her first start vs. Penn State, Bell posted 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 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. Last Sunday at Iowa, she again reached double-figures, scoring 10 points and adding a season and game-high eight rebounds.
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 86-8 (91.5%).
GETTING TO THE LINE
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 337 free throws (19.8 a game), in comparison to 13.8 a game in the losses (138 total). In its 17 wins, MSU is +73 in free throw attempts (+4.3 a game), while -87 (-8.7) in the eight losses.
The Spartans have been 42-4 over the last three seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 11-2 mark this season.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 22nd in the country in rebound margin (+7.0). 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 46 of its last 53 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).
DEFENDING BIG TEN CHAMPIONS
MSU has won 32 of its last 41 Big Ten regular season games (78.0%) 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 115-49 (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 112-51 (.686) 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% (57-27), and has the second highest percentage among active coaches.
Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 313-171 (.647) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
Michigan State has done a great job of bouncing back after a loss over the last couple seasons. The Spartans lost back-to-back games in-season for the first time since Jan. 2010 last month. Previously, MSU had won its last 13 games in-season after a defeat. In Coach Merchant's four seasons, the Spartans are 38-12 (76.0%) following a loss.
The 2011-12 basketball season is the Spartans' 23rd inside the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. MSU has an all-time record of 236-82 (.742) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 30 of its last 34 games (.882).
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
So far this season, Michigan State is second in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation in attendance with 7,355 fans a game. Its crowd vs. Ohio State (14,181) was the third largest in program history, while the attendance on Sunday vs. Purdue (13,424) was the fifth largest.
For the past seven-plus seasons, Michigan State has been one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. Last season marked the seventh straight season that the Spartans had been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 7,388 fans per game, which ranked ninth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. It set a new single-season attendance record, previously 6,787 in 2005-06, and tied for the highest nationally ranking (2006-07).
Michigan State had its first official sellout in program history last season vs. Michigan (Feb. 13) with a crowd of 14,797. It was the first sellout by a Big Ten school since Feb. 29, 2004 (Penn State), and just the ninth by a Big Ten school in their current home venue. With the sellout, the Spartans were the Big Ten Conference winner of the NCAA's Pack the House initiative.
In the 23-year history at Breslin, 1,278,670 fans have watched a MSU women's basketball game.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 7-5 all-time on Feb. 23, but has not lost on this date since 1996.