Feb. 24, 2013
ABOUT OHIO STATE
The Buckeyes enter the weekend 14-12 overall and tied for ninth in the Big Ten at 4-9. Tayler Hill leads the Buckeyes with 21.2 points per game, which is tied for first in the Big Ten and 11th in the nation. In conference play, she has increased her mark to 23.3 points. Hill also leads the team with 2.4 steals, which is sixth in the conference, and is tied for the team lead with 2.8 assists. She gets to the line 7.3 times per game, shooting 83.0%. Ashley Adams is second on the team with 9.0 points and leads OSU with 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
AGAINST THE BUCKEYES
Michigan State trails the all-time series with Ohio State, 50-23. MSU has lost its last four games with the Buckeyes. The Spartans are 10-19 all-time in Columbus.
QUICK HITTERS FROM WEDNESDAY (MSU 54, Northwestern 45)
- The Spartans won their 20th game of the season, reaching the 20-win plateau for the 10th-consecutive season, the longest active streak in the Big Ten. All-time it was MSU's 14th 20-win season.
- MSU was led by 15 points from Becca Mills, while Jasmine Thomas filled the stat sheet with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and a career-high three blocks. Kiana Johnson led the Spartans with six assists and three steals.
- The Spartans were cold from the field in opening of the game, falling behind 16-6, after shooting 3-for-19 in the first 12:40.
- For the second time this season against the Wildcats - MSU trailed NU 10-0 in Evanston on Jan. 31 - the Spartans overcame a double-digit deficit. Both deficits were the largest overcome by MSU this season.
- The Spartans closed the first half on a 14-3 run over the final 5:33 to take a 27-25 lead into the break.
- Northwestern scored the first four points of the second half and held MSU scoreless for the initial four-and-a-half minutes.
- Michigan State put together a 16-2 run over a span of 9:40 to open up a 48-35 lead with under four minutes to go.
- Michigan State won its 19th straight game over Northwestern. It is currently the longest active streak in the Big Ten against another conference school. The Spartans have also won 17 in a row over the Wildcats at Breslin Center. In addition to winning 19 straight over NU, the Spartans have also won 29 of the last 31 meetings.
- MSU also forced 17 turnovers and held a 16-2 edge in points off turnovers.
- Head coach Suzy Merchant has won at least 20 games in nine-straight seasons.
- Michigan State has now held 14 teams under 50 points this season, tying the 1973-74 team for the most in the single season.
MAKE IT 10-STRAIGHT
On Wednesday against Northwestern, Michigan State picked up its 20th win of the season. It is the 10th straight season that the Spartans have won at least 20 games, marking the longest active streak in the Big Ten. All-time it was MSU's 14th 20-win season.
Entering this season, MSU was 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 (21) have joined MSU in already reaching that plateau, Marist (19) and Middle Tennessee State (19) are within reach, while Bowling Green (17), Ohio State (14), Temple (12) and Vanderbilt (17) have some work to do.
Michigan State needed 26 games this season to get to 20 wins; it tied for the third fastest in school history. The 2004-05 and 2010-11 teams needed only 23 games, while the 1977-78, 1996-97 and 2006-07 squads also reach the number in 26 games.
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 125-54 (69.8%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only OSU (133-46; 74.3%) in winning percentage.
During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 67-32 (67.7%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-68), while her winning percentage is 12th-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 42 of its last 56 Big Ten regular season games (75.0%) 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.
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 23-5 (82.1%) in the month of February. In Merchant's five seasons, the Spartans are 32-10 (76.2%) in the month.
In Coach Merchant's first six seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 135-59 (69.6%). Her winning percentage is the 10th best all-time among Big Ten coaches. Her 135 wins so far are the sixth-most by a Big Ten coach in their first six seasons, only one win shy of Sharon Versyp for fifth and three short of Rene Portland for fourth-most. During her span, the 135 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (145).
Merchant has won at least 20 games in nine-straight seasons after Wednesday's win against Northwestern, not including the shortened 2006-07 season due to her maternity leave. In her career, she has 10 20-win seasons.
Merchant coaches her 100th Big Ten game on Monday. In conference games, she is 67-32 (67.7%), ranking her 12th in career winning percentage in Big Ten games.
NATIONAL STAT LEADERS
The latest NCAA statistical report was released on Feb. 22. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was ninth in points allowed (50.8), 15th in rebound margin (+8.3), 15th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.7%), 17th in fewest turnovers (13.8), 33rd in scoring margin (+12.6), 35th in fewest fouls (13.9), 36th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.01) and 44th in field goal percentage defense (35.6%).
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-plus seasons under Merchant, MSU is 30-18 (62.5%) in road conference games, the most wins in the Big Ten during that span. Only Nebraska (11-4) and Ohio State (27-23) have a winning road league record over the last six seasons.
MSU has had a winning road Big Ten record in each of the last four seasons (6-3 in 2008-09 and 2009-10, 6-2 in 2010-11, 5-3 in 2011-12). During that time, the other 11 Big Ten schools have combined for only 12 winning road seasons.
ON BIG TEN NETWORK
Today's game will mark the seventh of at least nine games for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 35-21 all-time on BTN, including a 4-2 mark this season.
The key to the Spartan success this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is ninth in the nation, allowing only 50.8 points per game. 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).
Michigan State has held 14 teams under 50 points, tying the 1973-74 team for the most in the single season. The Spartans have also held six opponents below 40 points this season, second all-time behind the 1973-74 team (nine times). Entering this season, the Spartans had only held 32 opponents under 40 points in the first 1,124 games of the program.
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 23 of its 26 opponents below their scoring average.
LOCKING DOWN THE LEADER
Aside from Nebraska's Jordan Hooper and Michigan's Kate Thompson in the second meeting last Saturday, Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. In all, 24 of the 26 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 +8.3 rebound margin, which is 15th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 70 of its last 83 opponents, including 22 of the 26 teams this season.
Overall, MSU is second in the Big Ten offensive rebounds with 13.9 per game, but has increased its production in conference games with a league-best 15.3 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 74.7% 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 15th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (25.7%). The Spartans have allowed only 93 3-pointers (3.6 per game) all season, which is fewest in the Big Ten and the 17th 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 17th in the nation.
The Spartan defense has been more disruptive over the last nine games, causing 17.4 turnovers per game and holding a combined +37 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 13.9 fouls per game (35th in the nation), and allowing only 12.8 free throw attempts per outing.
CLOSING IT OUT AT THE LINE
Despite being last in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (66.4%) 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 75.5% (40-53) from the free throw line. Leading the Spartans, Kiana Johnson is 12-for-14 (85.7%), Courtney Schiffauer is 5-for-6 (83.3%) and Jasmine Thomas is 9-for-11 (81.8%).
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 106-10 (91.4%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 76 of their last 77 games when leading with five minutes left, including a 20-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 118-5 (95.9%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
In Coach Merchant's six seasons, the Spartans are 44-14 (75.9%) following a loss, including a 6-1 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 26 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.7 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 11.8 points, ranking 24th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the conference leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (fifth, 1.4), minutes (eighth, 35.5), assists (12th, 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 7.7 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 seven games ago vs. Purdue. In her first 17 games, Johnson is second on the team with 9.9 points, and team highs with 4.1 assists, 2.1 steals and an 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in 30.6 minutes.
Her play in Big Ten games this season has increased, ranking eighth in the conference with 4.2 assists and ninth with 2.3 steals, while scoring 10.8 points, which is 26th. Her 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games, ranks third.
Johnson has led the team in assists in eight of the last 11 games (4.5 per game), including a season-high nine at Northwestern. In the last seven games, Johnson is 16-for-34 (47.1%) 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 1.71 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 6.6 points, a team-best 6.5 rebounds (which is 13th in the Big Ten) and 2.5 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 six games, including leading MSU in points at Northwestern (career-high 21) and No. 8 Penn State (16). Over the last six games, Pickrel is averaging 10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in 28.3 minutes. She is shooting 43.8% (14-for-32) from behind the arc.
For the season, the 6-3 forward is fifth on the team with 9.2 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 +6.7 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 51-for-138 (.370) 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 12th 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 (81:67), which is ninth in the conference. Over her last four games, Thomas has 15 assists and has committed only four turnovers.
Thomas is shooting 43.5% (37-for-85) 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.
Sophomore Becca Mills has been inconsistent for various points throughout the season, but has played well over the past three games and regained her starting spot. She has scored in double figures in each of the last three games, averaging 13.7 points in 27.0 minutes, while shooting 47.2% from the field.
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 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds, fourth on the team, in only 18.4 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.
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 6-2 all-time on Feb. 25.