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Spartans Close Out Big Ten Season, Honor Senior Class

Spartan seniors - Tracy Nogle, Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Schiffauer - will play their final game at Breslin Center on Sunday.

March 2, 2013

rv/- Michigan State (21-7, 9-6) vs. Wisconsin (11-17, 3-12)
 Date | Time Sunday, March 3 | 2 p.m.
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center
 Televison Big Ten Network
Lisa Byington - play-by-play
Shelley Till - analyst
 Internet Coverage Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 Radio WVFN 730AM | Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Radio (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App: iPhone/iPad | Android
 Game Notes Michigan State | Wisconsin
 Statistics Michigan State | Wisconsin | Big Ten
 Social Media @MSU_WBasketball   |  Facebook

On Sunday, the Spartans will honor their seniors in the final home game of the season. At halftime, MSU's graduate assistants, managers and scout team seniors will be recognized. After the game, the 2012-13 senior class of Tracy Nogle, Courtney Schiffauer and Jasmine Thomas will be honored.

The Badgers have lost four straight games and enter the final weekend of the Big Ten season at 11-17 overall and 3-12 in the conference. Morgan Paige leads Wisconsin with 16.1 points, while Jacki Gulczynski is the only other Badger in double figures with 12.7 points. Cassie Rochel is third in the Big Ten with 9.0 rebounds and Tiera Stephen is sixth in the league with 5.1 assists. UW is 1-11 on the road this season, including a 0-7 mark in Big Ten games.

Michigan State leads the all-time series with Wisconsin, 37-25, and have won the last three meetings. MSU is 22-6 against the Badgers in East Lansing, having won six of the last seven at Breslin Center.

- Michigan State earned its first win over a ranked opponent this season.
- Annalise Pickrel scored a game-high 18 points in 29 minutes off the bench, shooting 6-for-11 from the field and 4-for-7 from 3-point. She also added a team-best six rebounds.
- Jasmine Thomas and Klarissa Bell each added 17 points, while Thomas chipped in three assists, and Bell was strong defensively with three steals and two blocks.
- Kiana Johnson led the squad with six assists to just two turnovers, and picked up eight points and three steals.
- The first 10 minutes featured three ties and five lead changes, before a Thomas jumper with 9:58 left in the first half gave MSU a lead it would not give up. The basket was in the middle of an 11-0 run by the Spartans that gave the visitors a 21-13 lead.
- Purdue got back within one (27-26), but MSU closed the final 3:20 of the half on a 10-0 run to take a 37-26 halftime lead.
- Purdue came out strong to begin the second half, scoring the first seven points.
- The Boilermakers last attempt got them back within two (63-61) with 4:09 left, but MSU held them scoreless the rest of the way. The Boilermakers missed their last six shots, failing to hit a field goal over the final 6:50.
- The Spartans have held 26 of their 28 opponent leading scorers to below their season average. Purdue's Courtney Moses (13.2 points) had seven points on 2-for-8 shooting.
- The Spartans are now 45-14 after a loss under Coach Merchant, including a 7-1 record this season.
- Coach Merchant is now 3-2 in Mackey Arena as Spartan head coach. MSU has won three of its last four trips to West Lafayette, after losing 21 of its first 25 games.
- Michigan State tied its season high with 13 steals. MSU has posted 13 steals in both its meetings with Purdue this season.
- The Spartans tied their season high with nine 3-pointers, including going 7-for-10 in the first half.
- MSU forced 18 turnovers with only 12 of its own. MSU had a 20-11 edge in points off turnovers.

Michigan State enters the final Big Ten game in a four-way tie for third at 9-6 with Illinois, Michigan and Purdue. The Spartans will clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament with a win over Wisconsin on Sunday. MSU would get the No. 3 seed with wins by Ohio State (over Michigan) and Illinois (over Purdue), otherwise they would be the No.4 seed. If MSU loses on Sunday, they would be either the No.5 or 6 seed.

Last 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 (27 wins), Connecticut (27), Duke (26), Green Bay (23), Marist (22), Middle Tennessee State (22), Stanford (28) and Tennessee (23) have joined MSU in already reaching that plateau, and are within reach Bowling Green (18) and Vanderbilt (19), while Ohio State (16) and Temple (12) 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 won at least 10 Big Ten games in 10-straight seasons. With a win Sunday, Michigan State has a chance to extend the longest active streak in the Big Ten (Ohio State had 10-straight as well but cannot reach the 10-win plateau this season). MSU is 126-55 (69.6%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only OSU (135-46; 74.6%) in winning percentage.

During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 68-33 (67.3%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-70), while her winning percentage is 12th-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 43 of its last 58 Big Ten regular season games (74.1%) over the past four seasons.

This season, the Michigan State women's basketball program is celebrating its 40th year as a varsity sport. With a win on Sunday, the Spartans will become the 43rd program to win their 700th game. All-time, MSU is 699-453 (60.7%).

In Coach Merchant's first six seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 136-60 (69.4%). Her winning percentage is the 10th best all-time among Big Ten coaches. Her 136 wins so far are the fifth-most by a Big Ten coach in their first six seasons, only two short of Rene Portland for fourth-most. During her span, the 136 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (147).

Merchant has won at least 20 games in nine-straight seasons after last 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 coached her 100th Big Ten game on Monday. In conference games, she is 68-33 (67.3%), ranking her 12th in career winning percentage in Big Ten games.

The latest NCAA statistical report was released on March 1. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was 15th in points allowed (51.8), 19th in rebound margin (+7.9), 24th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.2%), 26th in fewest turnovers (13.9), 35th in scoring margin (+11.7), 41st in fewest fouls (14.0) and 42nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.99).

Today's game will mark the ninth of at least 10 games for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 36-22 all-time on BTN, including a 5-3 mark this season.

The key to the Spartan success this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is 15th in the nation, allowing only 51.8 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 24 of its 28 opponents below their scoring average.

Aside from Nebraska's Jordan Hooper and Michigan's Kate Thompson in the second meeting, Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. In all, 26 of the 28 opponents had been held below their scoring average.

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 +7.9 rebound margin, which is 19th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 72 of its last 85 opponents, including 24 of the 28 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 15.0 per game.

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).

Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 24th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.2%). The Spartans have allowed only 102 3-pointers (3.6 per game) all season, which is fewest in the Big Ten and the 19th fewest in the nation.

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 13.9 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is 26th in the nation.

The Spartan defense has been more disruptive over the last 11 games, causing 17.4 turnovers per game and holding a combined +40 turnover margin. In the first four conference games, MSU only forced only 13.5 turnovers and were -9 in turnover margin.

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 14.0 fouls per game (31st in the nation), and allowing only 12.8 free throw attempts per outing.

Despite being last in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (66.8%) 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 74.5% (41-55) 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%).

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 77 of their last 78 games when leading with five minutes left, including a 21-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 119-5 (96.0%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.

In Coach Merchant's six seasons, the Spartans are 45-14 (76.3%) following a loss, including a 7-1 record this season.

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 28 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.8 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 11.7 points, ranking 23rd in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the conference leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (sixth, 1.3), minutes (eighth, 35.5), assists (13th, 3.0) and rebounds (20th, 5.9). She is among the top-3 on the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-pointers made.

Bell has increased her scoring 7.6 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 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.

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 nine games ago vs. Purdue. In her first 19 games, Johnson is fourth on the team with 9.4 points, and team highs with 4.1 assists, 2.1 steals and an 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in 30.8 minutes.

Her play in Big Ten games this season has increased, ranking eighth in the conference with 4.3 assists and ninth with 2.2 steals, while scoring 10.1 points, which is 30th. Her 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games, ranks third.

Johnson has led the team in assists in nine of the last 13 games (4.5 per game), including a season-high nine at Northwestern. In the last eight games, Johnson is 18-for-41 (43.9%) 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 4.1 and fifth in steals per game at 1.9.

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 9.9 points, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals, while ranking third on the team with 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 1.3 a:to margin (88:69), which is sixth in the conference. Over her last six games, Thomas has 22 assists and has committed only six turnovers (3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio).

Over the past four games, Thomas has stepped up as the Spartan offensive leader, averging 16.0 points and shooting 52.9% from the field, including a career-high 21 points at Michigan and a team-best 16 points at Ohio State. It is the first time in her career that she scored in double figures in four-straight Big Ten games.

Thomas is shooting 46.8% (52-for-111) in the last 11 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.

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 6.5 points, a team-best 6.5 rebounds (which is 13th in the Big Ten) and 2.4 assists. She is also second on the team and 13th in the Big Ten with 2.1 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.

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 five of the last eight games, including leading MSU in points at Northwestern (career-high 21), at No. 8 Penn State (16) and at No. 22 Purdue (18). Over the last eight games, Pickrel is averaging 11.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.9 blocks in 28.3 minutes. She is shooting 44.2% (19-for-43) from behind the arc.

For the season, the 6-3 forward is third on the team with 9.6 points, while adding 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game, and committing just 28 turnovers all year. Pickrel has already topped her single-season high in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals. She averaged only 2.5 points last season, and her +7.1 point increase this season is fourth in the Big Ten.

More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 56-for-149 (.376) 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 10th in the conference. Her 56 3-pointers this season are currently 10th in the MSU single-season list, while her 75 career 3-pointers are 15th on the MSU career list.

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 8.1 points and 4.9 rebounds, fourth on the team, in only 18.3 minutes. She also leads the team and is eighth 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.

The 2012-13 basketball season is the Spartans' 24th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 249-84 (.748) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 43 of its last 49 games (.878).

The Spartans broke their single-season attendance record for the second straight season last year, cementing themselves as one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. Last season marked the eighth straight season that the Spartans had been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 7,505 fans per game, which ranked eighth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. It was MSU's highest national ranking.

So far this season, Michigan State is second in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation with 5,804 fans per game.

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.

Michigan State is 6-4 all-time on March 3, but haven't play on this date since 2006.



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