Women's Basketball Travel to Northwestern for Final Road Game
The Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with two games remaining.
Feb. 26, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 21 Michigan State women's basketball team hits the road for the final time in Big Ten play on Thursday, visiting Northwestern for a 9 p.m. ET tip on Big Ten Network. The Spartans (19-8, 11-3) enter the final week controlling their own destiny for at least a share of the conference title.
|No. 21/rv Michigan State (19-8, 11-3) at Northwestern (14-13, 4-10)|
|Date||Thursday, Feb. 27|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|Location||Evanston, Ill. | Welsh-Ryan Arena|
|Television||Big Ten Network
Eric Collins - play-by-play; Stephanie White - analyst
|Internet Coverage||BTN2Go | Click Here to Watch
|Radio||WJIM 1240AM | Click Here to Listen
Keaton Gillogly - play-by-play
|Game Notes||Michigan State | Northwestern|
|Statistics||Michigan State | Northwestern|
|Video||Spartan Women's Basketball All-Access: Episode 8|
|Social Media||@MSU_wbasketball | Facebook|
The Wildcats enter the final week of the Big Ten regular season at 14-13 overall and 4-10 in the conference, having lost six-straight games. Northwestern is seventh in the Big Ten with 69.4 points per game, while eighth in the league allowing 67.2 points. The Wildcats lead the conference and are third in the nation with 7.0 blocks, while holding opponents to the third-lowest field goal percentage (37.1%). Northwestern is second in the conference in assists with 16.7, led by freshman Ashley Deary who is second in the league and ninth in the nation with 6.6 per game. Fellow freshman Nia Coffey is top-10 in the Big Ten in both points (15.5) and rebounds (8.0).
AGAINST THE WILDCATS
Michigan State leads the all-time series against Northwestern, 40-22. The Spartans have won 19-straight games against the Wildcats, including eight in a row in Evanston. Going back even further, MSU has won 29 of the last 31 meetings.
Becca Mills has averaged 10.0 points in only 20.3 minutes in her first four games against the Wildcats, including going 4-for-5 from 3-point. Annalise Pickrel averaged 14.5 points against Northwestern in two games last season, including a 21-point effort in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Pickrel was 10-for-20 from the field and 7-for-14 from behind the arc in the two games.
QUICK HITTERS FROM MONDAY (No. 21 MICHIGAN STATE 75, MINNESOTA 61)
- With the Golden Gophers leading 7-6 in the early minutes, Michigan State went on a 19-4 run over an eight-minute stretch to jump ahead 25-11. The Spartans maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the half, going into the break up 44-33. MSU shot 58.1% in the opening half, including 7-for-11 (63.6%) from 3-point.
- The Spartan lead grew to as many as 18 (62-44) midway through the half, before Minnesota went on an 11-2 run to get back within single-digits at 64-55 with 3:54 to go. MSU scored seven of the next 10 points to gain back control of the game.
- Tori Jankoska led the Spartans with 21 points. Jankoska scored 16 of her 21 points in the first half, having shot 7-for-14 from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point on the night. She also added five assists, while playing all 40 minutes for the first time.
- Klarissa Bell dished out a career-high 10 assists, also adding nine points, three blocks and two steals.
- Becca Mills had a double-double with 11 points and a career-high 11 rebounds, while also added a career-high three steals.
- Jasmine Hines was also crucial off the bench with 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Hines scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 6-13, 2013.
- The Spartans had a season-high 23 assists on 30 made field goals. It was the most in a game since dishing out 24 vs. Milwaukee on Dec. 1, 2012 and the most in a Big Ten game since also having 23 vs. Michigan on Dec. 31, 2009.
- The Spartans are 7-0 this season when Jankoska leads them in scoring.
- MSU is now 14-1 when Hines scores in double figures in her career.
- The Spartans have won seven of their last eight games against Minnesota.
BIG TEN BATTLE
The Spartans enter the final week of the Big Ten season tied in the loss column for first place at 11-3 with Penn State (12-3) and Nebraska (11-3). Penn State closes with Michigan at home on Saturday, while Nebraska plays Illinois at home and at Purdue.
With last Thursday's win at Wisconsin, Michigan State has now won at least 10 Big Ten games in 12-straight seasons. It is the longest active streak in the Big Ten (with Penn State second at four). MSU is 138-58 (70.4%) in conference play over the last 12 seasons, trailing only Ohio State (141-54; 72.3%) in wins.
MSU is one of six Division I teams to have double-digit conference wins in each of the last 12 seasons - Chattanooga, Connecticut, Duke, Liberty and Stanford have also already reached 10 conference wins in 2013-14. Green Bay (9 wins) and Sacred Heart (8) are a couple wins away from also putting together 12 consecutive seasons as well.
The Spartans have finished third or better in the conference in each of the last five seasons - winning the title in 2010-11, placing second in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12, and third in 2012-13. In all, MSU has finished no worse than third place in eight of the last nine years.
More recently, MSU has won 55 of its last 73 Big Ten regular season games (75.3%). The Spartans started this season 4-0 in Big Ten action for the fifth time in program history (1987-88, 1989-90, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14). Also, MSU's 8-2 record was tied for the best 10-game start in program history (1996-97, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2008-09, 2010-11, 2013-14).
JANKOSKA NAMED BIG TEN FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Tori Jankoska earned her first Big Ten weekly accolades on Tuesday, being named Big Ten Freshman of the Week, in addition to being named to the three-player Big Ten Player of the Week Honor Roll. Jankoska led MSU with 17.5 points, 6.0 assists and 2.5 steals in wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota. The 5-8 guard also made 3.0 3-pointers per game, shooting 40.0%. In addition to her 12 assists, she committed only three turnovers in 77 minutes of play.
On Thursday, Jankoska posted 14 points, and set new season highs with seven assists and five steals at Wisconsin. She followed it up with her fifth 20-point game of the season vs. Minnesota on Monday, leading the team with 21 points, including 4-for-8 from 3-point, and had five assists.
The month of February will deem critical in determining the conference champion. Michigan State has been able to finish the season strong in Coach Merchant's tenure. In her seven seasons, MSU has gone 38-12 (76.0%) in the month of February, and over the last five seasons, the Spartans are 29-7 (80.5%). MSU is even better at Breslin Center, going 21-2 (91.3%) over the last seven seasons, including winning 20 of its last 21 games and nine in a row.
A major factor in the Big Ten success of the Spartans under Coach Merchant has been their play away from Breslin Center. In the seven seasons under Merchant, MSU is 37-21 (63.8%) in road conference games, the most wins in the Big Ten during that span. Only Nebraska (17-6), Ohio State (30-27), Penn State (31-28) and Iowa (30-28) have a winning road league record over the last seven seasons.
This season, Michigan State is 6-1 on the road in Big Ten games, with five of its six wins coming in double digits. With one road game to go, MSU's six road conference wins tie for the most in a season in program history (2003-04, 2004-05, 2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11).
The Spartans won their first five Big Ten road games this season for the first time in program history, before losing at Nebraska. In the 34 years of the Big Ten, only 20 teams had won its first five road conference games, including MSU and PSU this season.
MSU has had a winning road Big Ten record in four of the last five 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 16 winning road seasons.
The Spartans are one win away from reaching the 20-win plateau for the 11th straight season. The streak would be the longest active streak in the Big Ten (Penn State is second with four-in-a-row).
Entering this season, MSU was one of 11 teams in the nation to have won at least 20 games in each of the last 10 seasons. Baylor (25), Bowling Green (23), Connecticut (29), Duke (24), Marist (22), Middle Tennessee State (23), Stanford (26) and Tennessee (22) have extended their streaks, while Green Bay (16) and Vanderbilt (18) still have work to do.
Michigan State is off to its best offensive season under head coach Suzy Merchant. The Spartans are averaging 74.3 points and have a 45.0% field goal percentage. The points per game average is seven points better than any Merchant-led MSU team (the 2010-11 team averaged 67.3 points) and the field goal percentage is also the highest during the Merchant era (the 2008-09 team shot 42.1%).
Currently, the 74.3 points per game would be the fourth-best in program history, behind the 1996-97 team (76.8 points), the 1990-91 squad (74.9) and the 1994-95 team (74.6).
Already this season, the Spartans have scored 80 or more points in 10 of their 27 games. The total is the most in a season since 1999-00 and already the third-most in a single-season. In Merchant's previous six seasons, Michigan State reached 80 points only 17 times in 202 games.
Also, Michigan State has already shot at least 50% from the field eight times. It is the most in a single-season since the 1999-00 team that also accomplished the feat 11 times. All of last season, MSU shot over 50% on only five occasions.
After some defensive struggles early in the season, the Michigan State defense has improved its play in Big Ten games. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in conference games in points allowed (64.1), 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.8%) and 3-pointers allowed (3.8). They are also second in field goal percentage defense (39.5%) and third in blocks (4.9) and rebound margin (+6.5) in league games. MSU has led the Big Ten in conference games in points allowed in three of the last four seasons (2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12), while finishing second last season.
WINS V. LOSSES
The offensive difference between the Spartans' wins and losses this season have been substantial. In its wins, Michigan State is averaging 80.3 points, while shooting 48.3% from the field and 40.1% from 3-point, while making 7.0 per game. In the losses, MSU is putting up only 60.0 points, and shooting 37.6% from the field and 25.5% from 3-point (5.3 per game). In addition, the Spartans have a +9.8 rebound margin in wins and a -0.4 margin in the losses.
Individually, Tori Jankoska has seen the largest difference in production from wins and losses. Jankoska is averaging 14.5 points and shooting 46.5% from the field and 43.8% from 3-point (2.4 per game) in the wins, but only 8.3 points, 29.9% shooting and 23.9% from 3-point (1.4 per game) in the defeats. The Spartans are 7-0 this season when Jankoska leads them in scoring.
Michigan State has had to rely heavily on the production of three freshmen in the 2013-14 season. Branndais Agee, Tori Jankoska and Aerial Powers have all started at least one game and all have played a prominent role this year. The trio has combined to produce 42.1% of the Spartan offense, as Powers (13.3 points) and Jankoska (12.7) rank first and second on the team, respectively. The percentage is the highest in head coach Suzy Merchant's seven seasons. In the Big Ten, the percentage is third this season, trailing Indiana and Northwestern.
Michigan State is one of four teams in the nation with its top-two scorers as freshmen, along with Eastern Michigan, North Carolina and UMBC.
The trio has been more effective as the season has gone on, increasing its production level in the last eight games. During this stretch the three have combined for 47.4% (279 of 588) of MSU's points, as Jankoska is averaging 15.9 points, Powers 13.4 and Agee 5.6.
HELP OFF THE BENCH
The play of the Michigan State bench has been instrumental in the team's success so far this season. As a team, the Spartans are receiving 20.4 points per game from their reserves, compared to 12.2 points for the opposition. The total is currently second in the Big Ten, behind Purdue (23.4).
In five of Suzy Merchant's first six seasons, the Spartans have led the Big Ten in bench production (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13).
Getting to the free throw line this season has been integral in the success of the team. The Spartans are 16-0 this season when going to the line more than their opponents, while going 3-8 when the opponent has more attempts. In the 19 wins, Michigan State is averaging 22.5 free throw attempts and putting the opponent to the line 16.5 times, while in the losses, MSU is only attempting 11.9 per game and allowing 23.5. When shooting 18 or more free throws, the Spartans are 14-0.
The Spartans have improved their free throw percentage in conference games, shooting 72.3% in the 13 Big Ten games, compared to only 70.4% in non-conference action. During Michigan State's last eight games, the Spartans are shooting 74.3% (110-for-148) from the foul line.
DOUBLING IT UP
Against Georgetown, junior Kiana Johnson became the sixth different Spartan this season to post a double-double. MSU is the only school in the Big Ten with six different players with a double-double (Ohio State has five different players). In Michigan State history, it is the first time that a team has had six different double-doubles.
For the year, MSU has 15 total double-doubles. All of last year, the Spartans only had four. It is the most in a season since the 2004-05 team that had 23.
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 73-5 (93.6%), but had a 44-game winning streak snapped when reaching that number vs. IPFW. Also, when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 118-11 (91.5%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 99 of their last 100 games (99.0%) when leading with five minutes left, including winning 50 games in a row. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 141-5 (96.6%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Michigan State led the Big Ten in rebounds margin for the third-straight season, and for the fourth time in the last five years, last season. The Spartans have been top-40 in the country in rebound margin each of the last six seasons, getting as low as ninth nationally in 2010-11. The Spartans led the Big Ten in conference games last season with a +6.3 margin. MSU has led the league in three of the last five seasons in conference games only.
After getting out-rebounded by 23 in its opener at Notre Dame, Michigan State has a +8.0 rebound margin in its last 26 games. For the season, the Spartans are +6.8 on the glass to rank third in the Big Ten and 34th in the nation. So far this season, Michigan State's 41.4 rebounds per game is the highest mark in program history. The 2009-10 team also averaged 41.4 rebounds.
MSU has out-rebounded 94 of its last 118 opponents (79.7%).
AMONG ALL-TIME FRESHMAN GREATS
Spartan freshmen Aerial Powers and Tori Jankoska continue to climb the Michigan State freshman record books. The pair is now both in the top-10 of the points list, with Powers sixth with 359 and Jankoska seventh with 342 points. Powers has also moved into the top-10 in freshman rebounds (eighth, 208) and assists (ninth, 63), and has made the third-most free throws (84), only six shy of the program record. Her scoring average of 13.3 is first and her rebound average of 7.9 is seventh. Meanwhile, Jankoska is second on the 3-point field goals made list with 57, while her 37.7% 3-point percentage is third. Also, her free throw percentage of 78.3% is seventh and her free throws made (65) are ninth. Jankoska and Powers both have five 20-point games this season, tying the most by a Spartan freshman, while Powers' six double-doubles are tied for fourth most.
RINGING THE BELL FOR THE LAST TIME
Patience and progression have been two common words to describe Klarissa Bell's playing career at Michigan State. Growing up in East Lansing and being named Michigan's Miss Basketball as a high school senior, she came to MSU with high expectations. 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, Merchant inserted her into the starting lineup on Jan. 29, 2012 vs. Penn State and she has started every game since. As a starter, Bell has helped Michigan State to a 52-20 record, while averaging 9.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 33.6 minutes.
Entering this season, Bell has seen progression in her stat lines, including averaging career highs of 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks as a junior. Her points and rebounds led the team, while her blocks were second, and her assists and steals were third. Because of a shortened bench, Bell was relied upon to play extended minutes, ranking fourth on the MSU single-season list in minutes (1,196) and sixth in minutes per game (35.2). Her play earned her third-team All-Big Ten honors, and placed her on the coaches' preseason All-Big Ten team.
With a new role this season, Bell is sixth on the team with 8.3 points, but is second in assists (3.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5), third in steals (1.1) and rebounds (5.4). She is fourth in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio and ninth in assists. Bell had a career-high 10 assists on Monday vs. Minnesota.
The Spartans' success last season was weighed heavily based upon Bell's play. In Michigan State's 25 wins, she averaged 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 45.1% from the field, while in the nine losses, she scored only 6.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and shot just 29.5%. So far this season, the trend has continued, as in the 19 wins, Bell is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 assists, with a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, while shooting 49.2%, and in the eight losses, she is averaging 6.9 points, 2.9 assists, 1.0 assist-to-turnover, while shooting 32.8%.
PICK AND POP
Senior Annalise Pickrel made a huge breakthrough last year in her junior season. After averaging 3.3 and 2.5 points in her first two seasons, Pickrel increased her scoring output to 9.3 points per game, which tied for third on the team. Her +6.8 point increase ranked third in the Big Ten last season.
Pickrel has begun her senior season on a high note, building off her success last season. She is third on the team with 12.4 points and second with 7.0 rebounds, while leading the team with 1.0 blocks and third with 2.7 assists in 33.2 minutes. Pickrel is shooting 45.4% from the field, 37.3% from the 3-point line (44-for-118) and 75.0% from the free throw line. Pickrel's points, rebounds, assists, blocks are all on pace for career highs.
Pickrel has led MSU in points, rebounds and assists in two seperate games (home vs. Wisconsin and Ohio State). She is the first Spartan to do so twice in the same season since Lykendra Johnson in 2010-11. Also this season, Pickrel has reached the 20-point plateau in three games, after doing so only once in her first three seasons.
Her greatest asset the last two seasons has been her production from the 3-point line. Leading the team in both categories, Pickrel ranked ninth in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7%) and 3-point field goals made per game (1.8) last season. Pickrel made a career-high 65 3-pointers, which is the seventh most in a Spartan single season. Entering that year, she was just 19-for-63 (30.2%) from the 3-point arc in her first two seasons at MSU. This season, she is 14th the conference at 37.3% and is 14th with 1.6 3-pointers.
Pickrel is currently seventh in Spartan history with 128 3-point field goals made, while ranking fifth with a career 35.8% 3-point field goal percentage.
HOLDING DOWN THE POST
Early in the 2013-14 season, junior Becca Mills was asked to fill a lot of minutes in the post due to some early season injuries. Now with the support of fellow post Jasmine Hines, Mills' play has flourished. Over her last five games, Mills has led MSU in scoring in three of the five, while averaging 14.6 points in 28.0 minutes.
Mills has been up-and-down throughout the season though. For the season, she is fourth on the team with 9.9 points and third with 5.4 rebounds in 24.5 minutes, while second on the team and eighth in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (51.2%). Over her last 19 games, Mills is shooting 54.8% (80-for-146) from the field.
Over the last three games, Mills is 4-for-5 from behind the arc. It was her first 3-pointers since the Big Ten opener at Minnesota. She was 2-for-14 on the season from 3-point prior to the last three games.
Freshman Tori Jankoska made a quick impression on the 2013-14 Spartan season, and has been hot of late for MSU. Jankoska is second on the team with 12.7 points, and broke out of a shooting slump after the holidays. Since coming back from the holiday break, Jankoska is averaging 14.5 points over the last 15 games, shooting 45.3% (39-for-86) from the 3-point line. Leading into the break, she had averaged 4.0 points over her previous five games, and had made only seven 3-pointers (7-for-40; 17.5%) in her previous eight contests. During the stretch, she has twice scored a season-high 25 points (Colgate and Ohio State), which is the ninth-most all-time by a Spartan freshman. In the Colgate game, Jankoska went 6-for-9 from 3-point, marking the fourth-most in a single-game and the second-most by a freshman.
Jankoska leads the team with 57 3-pointers (2.1 per game), which is tied for ninth in the Big Ten overall and second among freshman. Her 57 3-pointers are already the second most by a Spartan freshman. Jankoska is shooting 37.7% from behind the arc, which also leads the team and 13th in the conference. In Big Ten games, she ranks seventh in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (42.9%) and fifth in 3-pointers (2.4).
Since rejoining the starting lineup Jan. 26 at Ohio State, Jankoska has seen an uptick in her statistical production. In the eight games, she leads the team in points (15.9), assists (3.6), steals (1.9), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7) and 3-pointers (2.6) in 36.5 minutes. Jankoska is shooting 46.7% from the field and 43.8% from 3-point.
Jankoska came to Michigan State with a laundry list of high school accolades, highlighted by being named a PARADE High School All-American, Michigan's Miss Basketball and Michigan's Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She shattered Freeland's career scoring record, totaling 2,333 points, while averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 steals in her career. As a senior, she averaged 30.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 4.8 steals.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK(S)
Redshirt freshmen Branndais Agee and Aerial Powers returned from season-ending injuries last season. Agee, a high school All-American, played in only five games last season for MSU, averaging 2.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 13.2 minutes, before tearing her right ACL. Powers, who was a top-100 recruit and a two-time Michigan AP Class B Player of the Year, missed the entire season after tearing the Achilles tendon in her left ankle during preseason practice.
Both players were expected to be major contributors this season, but Powers was the first to make an immediate impact. She leads the team with 13.3 points (21st in the Big Ten), 7.7 rebounds (eighth in the conference) and 1.8 steals (eighth). She is also is averaging 2.3 assists in just 25.7 minutes. Powers is 10th in the conference and third on the team, shooting 49.6%. Powers has earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors four times this season.
Powers is the only freshman in the nation with at least 350 points, 200 rebounds and 60 assists. Powers had her best statistical output of the season vs. IPFW, posting her first career double-double with game-highs of 28 points and 14 rebounds. Her points were the most by a Spartan freshman since Nov. 29, 2006 (and the second-most all-time by a freshman) and her rebounds were the most by a MSU freshman since Jan. 22, 2009. Powers followed it up with another double-double at Florida State with 19 points and 10 rebounds. She became the first Spartan since Courtney Schiffauer on Dec. 8 and 16 last season to record back-to-back double-doubles, and the first MSU freshman to do so since Lykendra Johnson on Feb. 8 and 12 in 2009. Powers had her fourth double-double vs. No. 16/14 Nebraska, totaling 17 points and 15 rebounds in only 27 minutes. Her 15 rebounds were the most by a Spartan in a game since Jan. 7, 2012 and the 13th-most ever by a MSU freshman.
Agee has been up-and-down so far this season. Against Detroit, she became the first Spartan freshman to post a double-double since Lykendra Johnson at Indiana on Feb. 12, 2009. Agee led MSU with 17 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs, in a career-high 23 minutes. For the season, Agee is averaging 5.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in only 12.8 minutes. Agee has increased her playing time over the last six games, averaging 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 16.0 minutes, after playing only 7.4 minutes (2.0 points and 1.1 rebounds) in the first eight Big Ten games.
Junior Jasmine Hines came to East Lansing as Michigan's high school career points and rebounds record holder, but her minutes have been limited over her first three seasons at Michigan State. However in those minutes, her production has been effective, averaging 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds in only 13.7 minutes. Hines has led MSU in field goal percentage in each of her first two seasons.
Hines returned to the lineup for the first time this season at Florida State, after missing the first seven games due to a concussion. For the season (20 games), she is averaging 4.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in 12.5 minutes, and is slowly working back into more significant minutes. Hines broke out in a big way against Purdue, coming off the bench for a season-high 16 points in 23 minutes, and has averaged 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 19.2 minutes over her last fsix games. Hines is currently leads the team in field goal percentage (51.4%), and is shooting 55.2% over her last 17 games.
Hines has scored in double digits in each of the last two games, posting back-to-back efforts for the first time since Jan. 6-13, 2013. In those two games, she is averaging 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in 22.5 minutes, while shooting 10-for-16 (62.5%).
WORTH THE WAIT
Nov. 23 marked the long-awaited return to the court of 6-7 center Madison Williams. The former McDonalds All-American suffered three ACL injuries over the past three seasons, limiting her to three career games entering this season. Williams stepped onto the court against Rice for the first time since Nov. 15, 2011 to a standing ovation from the Breslin Center crowd. In her five minutes of action, she went 3-of-4 from the field for six points, while also adding a rebound, a block and a steal.
So far this season per 40 minutes, Williams is averaging 9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.6 blocks. After missing two of the previous three games, Williams returned to action at Ohio State to play arguably her best game as a Spartan. In a career-high 19 minutes, she blocked seven shots and grabbed eight rebounds, both career highs. Her seven blocks tied for the 10th most in a single-game and were the most since Feb. 4, 2010.
At 6-7, Williams is currently the fifth tallest player in NCAA Division I. The only student-athletes taller are Pittsburgh's Marvadene Anderson (6-11), Albany's Megan Craig (6-9), UCLA's Savanna Trapp (6-9) and Nevada's Mimi Mungedi (6-8).
TAKING CARE OF THE ROCK
Junior Kiana Johnson has orchestrated the Spartan offense through her first three seasons in green and white. Johnson has led MSU in assists in each of her first two seasons, and ranks third on the Spartan career list with 4.6 assists per game. She has been equally careful with the ball, posting a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.03 (347:171), which is currently first in the MSU record books. So far in 2013-14, Johnson leads the team with 6.0 assists per game and with a 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Johnson is currently suspended from the team indefinitely due to a violation of team rules.
In her last 16 games (having led MSU in assists in 13 of those), Johnson has totaled 104 assists (6.5 per game). Against IPFW, Johnson dished out a career-high 11 assists; the total tied for the eighth-most in a single game, and was the most by a Spartan since Donita Johnson vs. Indiana on Feb. 5, 1999. She also had double-figure assists vs. Georgetown, en route to her first career double-double. It was the first double-double using assists by a Spartan since Kristin Haynie on March 27, 2005 vs. Vanderbilt. Also, Johnson became the first Spartan since Tamika Matlock in 1996-97 with multiple double-digit assists games in the same season.
FIVE CONSECUTIVE INVITATIONS TO THE BIG DANCE
Michigan State made its fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012-13, and its 10th in the last 11 years. Overall, the Spartans qualified for their 12th straight postseason. The five appearances in a row tie the longest stretch in program history. MSU has won at least one game in eight of its last nine NCAA Tournament trips.
MSU is one of 19 schools in the country (and one of only two in the Big Ten) to make the NCAA Tournament the last five seasons - Baylor, Connecticut, DePaul, Duke, Fresno State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Green Bay, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Dakota State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.
In Coach Merchant's first seven seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 159-70 (69.4%). Her winning percentage is the 10th-best all-time among Big Ten coaches, and second among active conference coaches. Entering the year, her 140 wins were the fourth-most by a Big Ten coach in their first six seasons. During her span, the 159 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (164). Merchant has won at least 20 games in nine-straight seasons, not including the shortened 2006-07 season due to her maternity leave. In her career, she has 10 20-win seasons.
In conference games, she is 80-36 (69.0%), ranking her 10th all-time in career winning percentage in Big Ten games and second among active coaches. During her Spartan career, her 80 conference wins are the most in the Big Ten (Ohio State-76).
Last season was Suzy Merchant's sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament, posting a 5-6 record. She has guided the Spartans to the last five tournaments, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2009 and the second round in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Merchant ties Joanne P. McCallie for the most NCAA appearances as a MSU head coach (five). Over the last five NCAA Tournaments, her five wins are second among Big Ten schools (Purdue has six). Merchant also took Eastern Michigan to the tournament in 2004.
In head coach Suzy Merchant's first six seasons at Michigan State, a total of 20 Spartans have earned All-Big Ten honors, leading the conference in that span. In addition, MSU has had five major award winners, four Big Ten All-Freshman team recipients and four Big Ten All-Defensive team honorees. Last season, Klarissa Bell was a third-team All-Big Ten choice by the coaches, while Bell, Jasmine Thomas and Kiana Johnson were honorable mention selections by the media.
ON BIG TEN NETWORK
Tonight's game will mark the ninth of at least 10 games for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 38-20 all-time on BTN, including a 7-1 mark so far this season.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 7-5 all-time on Feb. 27.