Spartans Conclude Big Ten Schedule Sunday at Northwestern
 
 
 
Senior Lykendra Johnson returns to her home city of Chicago as the Spartans conclude the Big Ten season Sunday at Northwestern.
 
Senior Lykendra Johnson returns to her home city of Chicago as the Spartans conclude the Big Ten season Sunday at Northwestern.
 
 

Feb. 25, 2012

Michigan State (18-10, 10-5) at Northwestern (14-14, 4-11)
 Date Sunday, Feb. 26
 Time 3 p.m. ET
 Location Evanston, Ill. | Welsh-Ryan Arena
 Television none
 Radio WJIM 1240AM
Rick Berkey (play-by-play)
Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Internet Coverage BTN.com Broadcast | GameTracker
 Game Notes Michigan State | Northwestern
 Statistics Michigan State (html | pdf) | Northwestern
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

ABOUT NORTHWESTERN
The Wildcats enter the last weekend of the Big Ten season tied for 10th at 4-11. Northwestern has lost eight of its last 10 games to fall to 14-14 overall. The trio of Kendall Hackney (15.2), Morgan Jones (14.3) and Dannielle Diamont (13.8) leads the Wildcats offensively. All three also average over six rebounds a game, led by 6.7 from Diamant. Karly Roser is third in the Big Ten with 4.9 assists a game and leads the team with 1.8 steals.

AGAINST THE WILDCATS
Michigan State leads the all-time series, 37-22 against Northwestern. The Spartans have won the last 16 meetings, and 26 of the last 28 games. During their winning streak in the series, MSU's margin of victory is 19.0 points per game. Michigan State is 14-16 all-time in Evanston, but has won its last six in Welsh-Ryan Arena.

RACE TO THE FINISH
With one day of games remaining, the battle for the four first round byes in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament is still up for grabs. 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 (11-4) has clinched the No. 2 seed, and sits a game ahead of MSU, Iowa and Purdue who are all 10-5. Nebraska (9-6) has an outside shot of getting a bye.

FIRST MEETING (MSU 72, Northwestern 58)
Michigan State used a 12-0 run late in the first half to pull away from Northwestern, and cruise to a 72-58 win at Breslin Center on Feb. 9. Porsche Poole surpassed 20 points for the fourth-straight game, leading MSU with 20 points and a then-career high seven assists. Poole was the first Spartan since Liz Shimek at the end of the 2005-06 season to score at least 20 points in four straight games. The Spartans had four players in double-figures. Lykendra Johnson added 12 points and a game-high eight rebounds, while Taylor Alton had 11 points and Kiana Johnson posted 10. Alton also added a career high tying seven rebounds and three steals.

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)
Thursday night was a night to honor the three Spartan seniors, but it was a sophomore who sparked Michigan State to a 73-53 upset of No. 23 Nebraska. Klarissa Bell scored a game- and career-high 19 points, including MSU's first seven points, to help MSU open a 28-8 lead in the first nine minutes. It was the first time in her career that Bell has led MSU in scoring, as she went 8-for-12 from the field, and tied her career high, going 3-for-4 from behind the arc.. Bell also set a career high with three steals and set a season high with three assists (and no turnovers). It was the first meeting between Michigan State and Nebraska.

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
Michigan State won its 10th Big Ten game on Thursday. With the win, the Spartans have won at least 10 Big Ten games in 10-straight seasons. It is tied for the longest active streak in the conference with Ohio State. MSU is 116-49 (70.3%) in conference play over the last 10 seasons, trailing only OSU in winning percentage.

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
After their loss at Iowa on Feb. 12, the Spartans knew they needed wins in order to make the NCAA Tournament. Since then, MSU has won three straight in convincing fashion (+17.0 points per game), including the last two against ranked opponents. It was the first time in program history that an unranked Spartan team has beaten back-to-back ranked teams.

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.

HISTORIC PERFORMANCES
Over the last four weeks, Porsche Poole is second among all Big Ten players with 19.6 points and 5.4 assists a game, while also ranking fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and seventh in steals (2.1). She has also increased her rebounding to 5.0 a game during the eight-game hot streak.

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
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 27.4 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.1 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 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
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 1,192 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
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 and is also the eighth best increase in Spartan history. Poole has scored in double-figures in 19 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 46.4% from the field, which ranks second on the team and 13th in the Big Ten.

BELL'S CHANCE
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 8.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in 31.4 minutes over the last seven games.

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.

FRESHMAN REVITALIZED
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 20 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 8.0 points and 4.6 assists (compared to 2.5 turnovers).

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.

MAGIC NUMBERS
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 49-4 (92.5%), including winning their last 32 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 87-8 (91.6%).

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 347 free throws (19.3 a game), in comparison to 13.8 a game in the losses (138 total). In its 18 wins, MSU is +63 in free throw attempts (+3.5 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 23rd in the country in rebound margin (+6.8). Senior Lykendra Johnson is second in the Big Ten with 8.9 a game. Johnson leads the conference with 3.1 offensive 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
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 113-51 (.689) 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 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).

AGAINST THE NATION'S BEST
With its win over No. 23 Nebraska on Thursday, Michigan State has won its last three games against ranked opponents, and improve to 4-4 against teams in the top-25 this season. Under Coach Merchant, MSU is 15-15 against ranked teams. Since the beginning of the 2004-05 season, the Spartans have 36 wins over nationally-ranked opponents, including 12 over top-10 teams and 17 on either the road or neutral floor.

ROAD WARRIORS
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 seasons under Merchant, MSU is 26-16 (61.9%) in road conference games. They are one of two schools with a winning road record (Ohio State is 25-17).

ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 5-4 all-time on Feb. 26.