Spartans Conclude Big Ten Schedule Sunday at Northwestern
Feb. 25, 2012
AGAINST THE WILDCATS
RACE TO THE FINISH
FIRST MEETING (MSU 72, Northwestern 58)
Northwestern was in control for much of the first half, holding a 26-21 lead with 5:52 on the clock. However, the Spartans would score the next 12 points over a span of 5:39 to take the lead for good. Northwestern stopped a run with a layup with 13 seconds to go in the half, bringing the halftime score to 33-28 MSU. The Spartans jumped out quickly in the second half, scoring the first seven points to open a 12-point lead (40-28). MSU's lead grew to as many as 18 (59-41), and remained in double-digits the rest of the way, as the Spartans closed out the 72-58 win.
LAST TIME OUT (MSU 73, No. 23 Nebraska 53)
All three seniors were productive in their final Breslin Center game. Taylor Alton poured in 18 points, going 7-for-11 from the field, including 4-of-8 from behind the arc, while also adding five rebounds in two steals. Porsche Poole dished out a career high nine assists, while also adding 13 points. Lykendra Johnson had seven points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Nebraska got on the board first, but Bell scored the first seven MSU points, pushing the Spartans ahead 7-2 in the early minutes. The Huskers scored the next four points to pull within one, but the Spartans followed with a 19-2 run, including a stretch of 15 unanswered, to take the wind out of Nebraska and go ahead 28-8 with 11:18 on the clock. Michigan State maintained a comfortable margin, eventually going into halftime up 43-22. The Spartans shot 62.1% in the first half, including a 7-of-12 effort from behind the arc.
Michigan State was sloppy early in the second half, but would grow its lead to as many as 23 on a couple occasions. A 15-2 Nebraska run cut the Spartan lead to 10 (52-42) with 11:46 left. MSU regrouped and posted a 15-3 run of their own over the next six minutes to put the game away. With 1:55 left, head coach Suzy Merchant subbed out the three seniors together, allowing them to kiss the Spartan head at midcourt on their way off the court for the last time.
10 FOR 10
The Spartans have won six of their last seven games, and is tied for third in the conference at 10-5. MSU has finished second or better in each of the last three Big Ten seasons, including its outright regular season title last year. MSU has won 33 of its last 42 Big Ten regular season games (78.6%) over the past two-plus seasons.
BACKS AGAINST THE WALL
During the stretch, the Spartans have picked up their defensive effort, allowing only 50.3 points per game, while holding the opponents to 32.3% from the field and 19.5% from 3-point range. MSU is +9.0 a game on the glass in the last three games. The Spartans have also distributed the ball well, dealing out 18.7 assists a game, while posting a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Over the eight game stretch, she has set career highs in points (32 vs. Penn State), rebounds (9, at Michigan), assists (9, vs. Nebraska) 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
Johnson recently surpassed Kristen Rasmussen for second place on the Spartan all-time rebound list, and currently has totaled 992. 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 392, 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 +249 with her on the court, but are -48 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
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 1,192 points in her MSU career, good for 13th place. Johnson will leave as one of the top rebounders in school history, currently second all-time in rebounds (992) and offensive rebounds (392). She is also the only Spartan to rank in the top-5 in both career blocks (third with 139) and steals (fifth with 220).
Johnson also is among the Michigan State leaders in each shooting category, ranking seventh in free throws made (289), 16th in 3-point field goals (59) and 16th in field goals (422). She is also sixth in career starts (112), 11th with 127 games played and 12th with 3,277 minutes played.
SPLASH IN THE POOLE
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 46.4% from the field, which ranks second on the team and 13th in the Big Ten.
Since becoming a starter, Bell has set career highs in points (18), steals (3) and minutes (38), all against Nebraska Thursday, while also setting season highs in rebounds (8 vs. Iowa) and assists (3 vs. Nebraska). She is also shooting 52.2% from the field during the stretch. In her last three games, Bell has committed only one turnover in 90 minutes of action.
Johnson's assist-to-turnover ratio (1.61) 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 sixth in the Big Ten with 4.1 assists per game, and is third overall with a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. She has increased her production in conference games, placing second assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.7 and third in assists (4.7). Johnson is second on the team in steals with 1.8 a game, 11th 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.
GETTING TO THE LINE
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
MSU has out-rebounded 46 of its last 54 opponents dating back to last season, and was outrebounded only five times this season (at Texas, at Penn State, vs. Indiana, vs. Northwestern, vs. Nebraska).
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).
300 AND 100
In the 31-year history of the Big Ten, Merchant has the 11th-best career winning percentage in conference games, winning 68.2% (58-27), and has the second highest percentage among active coaches.
Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 314-171 (.647) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).
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