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Women's Basketball Prepares for 2013 Big Ten Tournament

Senior Jasmine Thomas leads the Spartans into Hoffman Estates for the 2013 Big Ten Tournament.

March 6, 2013

rv/- Michigan State (22-7, 10-6) vs. Michigan (20-9, 9-7)/Indiana (11-18, 2-14)
Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals
 Date | Time Friday, March 8 | approx. 9:25 p.m.
 Location Hoffman Estates, Ill. | Sears Centre
 Televison Big Ten Network
Kevin Kugler - play-by-play
Stephanie White - analyst
Lisa Byington - sidelines
 Radio WVFN 730AM | Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Radio (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App: iPhone/iPad | Android
 Internet Coverage Big Ten Tournament Central
Big Ten Tournament Bracket (pdf)
 Game Notes Michigan State | Michigan | Indiana
 Statistics Michigan State | Michigan | Indiana | Big Ten
 Tickets Sears Centre
 Social Media @MSU_WBasketball   |  Facebook

The Spartans are 14-17 all-time in their previous 18 trips to the Big Ten Tournament, which started in 1995. It is just the second time in the 19-year history of the tournament that it is not in Indianapolis. Michigan State enters the 2013 Big Ten Tournament as the No. 4 seed for the first time in program history. MSU has been a top-5 seed in each of the last 11 tournaments. In eight of the last nine Big Ten Tournaments, MSU has won at least one game. The Spartans won its only Big Ten Tournament title in 2005.

The Wolverines enter the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 5 seed after finishing the Big Ten season in a tie for fifth at 9-7. Michigan is 20-9 overall. Second-team All-Big Ten selection Kate Thompson leads the Wolverines with 14.9 points, and tops the conference with 3.6 3-pointers. Rachel Sheffer (12.8 points) and Jenny Ryan (10.4) also average double digits, while Ryan is fourth in the Big Ten with 5.3 assists. U-M is tied for the Big Ten lead with 6.3 3-pointers per game, and is second to MSU with 55.2 points allowed.

Michigan State lead the all-time series with Michigan, 61-16. The Spartans have won have won 20 of the last 22 meetings. Each team protected its home floor this season. MSU won at Breslin Center 61-46 on Feb. 4, before U-M came back to post a 70-69 victory on Feb. 16 at Crisler Center. MSU is 5-0 against Michigan on a neutral floor, including a 2-0 mark in the Big Ten Tournament. The two last met in the conference tournament in the 2010 quarterfinals, a 61-50 Spartan win.

Michigan State has had great success against other collegiate programs in the state of Michigan over the past 11 seasons. Since the beginning of the 2002-03 season, the Spartans are 37-2 (.949) against in-state rivals, including a 22-2 (.917) mark under Coach Merchant. All-time, Michigan State is 170-57 (.749) against other Michigan schools.

The Hoosiers finished the Big Ten season in 12th place at 2-14. Indiana has lost three in a row and 13 of its last 14 games, falling to 11-18 overall on the season. Indiana, who is last in the conference with 55.7 points per game, is led by Aulani Sinclair's 15.9 points, while Jasmine McGhee is averaging 12.8 points and a team-best 5.8 rebounds.

Michigan State leads the all-time series against Indiana, 43-23, and have won the last seven meetings, and 17 of the last 20. The Spartans swept the two meetings this season, winning at Assembly Hall 56-46 on Jan. 20 and at Breslin 72-42 on Feb. 13. Michigan State is 4-1 against Indiana on a neutral floor, including a 2-0 record in the Big Ten Tournament. MSU won in last season's Big Ten Tournament first round, 97-68.

Kiana Johnson has enjoyed playing against the Hoosiers in her first two seasons. In five games, she has posted 34 assists (6.8 per game) and only seven turnovers in 32.0 minutes, including a career-high 10 assists at home against IU on Jan. 12, 2012.

- After the game, the three seniors - Tracy Nogle, Courtney Schiffauer and Jasmine Thomas - were honored on the court.
- Thomas led MSU with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals. Kiana Johnson added 10 points and a team-high five assists.
- Michigan State never trailed and jumped out to an early 8-2 lead in the first four minutes.
- The Spartans started the second half with a 10-3 run over the first four minutes to go ahead 40-26, their largest lead.
- It was Michigan State's 700th career win as a program, becoming the 43rd school to reach that plateau.
- Michigan State extended its streak of 10-win Big Ten seasons to 11-consecutive years, the longest active streak in the Big Ten.
- The attendance of 14,024 was the largest this season and the fifth largest crowd in program history.
- MSU has held 15 teams under 50 points this season, a new program record.
- The Spartans have won four-straight over Wisconsin.
- Tracy Nogle made her first career start on Senior Day.

On Feb. 20 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 (29 wins), Connecticut (27), Duke (27), Green Bay (24), Marist (23), Middle Tennessee State (22), Stanford (28) and Tennessee (23) have joined MSU in already reaching that plateau, and Bowling Green (19) and Vanderbilt (19) are within reach, while Ohio State (17) 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 reached the number in 26 games.

After its win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten finale on Sunday, the Spartans won its 10th conference game, extending its streak to 11-consecutive years with double-digit Big Ten wins. It is the longest active streak in the Big Ten (with Penn State second at three).MSU is 127-55 (69.8%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only Ohio State (136-46; 74.7%) in wins.

During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 69-33 (67.6%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-71), while her winning percentage is 12th-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 44 of its last 59 Big Ten regular season games (74.6%).

Michigan State finished the 2012-13 Big Ten season in a tie for third at 10-6. The Spartans have now finished third or better in each of the last five seasons - winning the title in 2010-11, and placing second in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12. In all, MSU has finished no worse than third place in eight of the last nine years.

In head coach Suzy Merchant's 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.

This 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. All three Spartans earned All-Big Ten honors for the first times in their careers. Courtney Schiffauer was MSU's recipient of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.

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

In Coach Merchant's first six seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 137-60 (69.5%). Her winning percentage is the 10th best all-time among Big Ten coaches. Her 137 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 137 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (148).

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.

Merchant coached her 100th Big Ten game last Monday. In conference games, she is 69-33 (67.6%), ranking her 12th in career winning percentage in Big Ten games.

As Spartan head coach, Merchant is 8-0 in the state of Illinois, having gone 4-0 at both Northwestern and Illinois.

The latest NCAA statistical report was released on March 4. The Spartans were among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State was 12th in points allowed (51.6), 18th in rebound margin (+7.8), 23rd in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.3%), 28th in fewest turnovers (13.9), 32nd in scoring margin (+11.5), 39th in fewest fouls (14.0) and 41st in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.99).

The key to the Spartan success this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State is 12th in the nation, allowing only 51.6 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 15 teams under 50 points, the most in the single season (1973-74 team did it 14 times). 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 25 of its 29 opponents below their scoring average.

Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. In all, 26 of the 29 opponents had been held below their scoring average. They have all combined to shoot only 32.6% (111-for-340) from the floor.

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 five seasons, getting as low as ninth nationally in 2010-11. This season, MSU leads the Big Ten with a +7.8 rebound margin, which is 18th in the country. MSU has out-rebounded 73 of its last 86 opponents, including 25 of the 29 teams this season.

The Spartans led the Big Ten in conference games this season with a +6.3 margin. MSU has led the league in three of the last five seasons in conference games only. Overall, MSU is second in the Big Ten offensive rebounds with 13.8 per game, but increased its production in conference games with a league-best 14.9 per game. The Spartans ended up leading the Big Ten in conference games in both defensive rebound percentage (74.4%) and offensive rebound percentage (37.7%).

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 finished second in the Big Ten in points allowed in conference games this season with 58.8 points. The Spartans had previously led the Big Ten in conference games in points allowed for the last three seasons.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 23rd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (26.3%). The Spartans have allowed only 106 3-pointers (3.7 per game) all season, which is fewest in the Big Ten and the 20th 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 28th in the nation.

The Spartan defense has been more disruptive over the last 12 games, causing 17.4 turnovers and holding a combined +44 turnover margin. In the first four conference games, MSU only forced only 13.5 turnovers and were -9 in turnover margin.

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 78 of their last 79 games when leading with five minutes left, including a 22-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 120-5 (96.0%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.

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 74.1% (43-58) 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 11-for-14 (78.6%).

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 107-10 (91.5%).

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, 2012 (vs. Penn State) and started the final 11 games last year. As a starter, including the first 29 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 34.2 minutes.

Bell's improved play was recognized by the Big Ten coaches when she was named to the All-Big Ten Third Team on Monday. Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader this season, leading the team with 11.4 points, ranking 24th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the conference leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (sixth, 1.3), minutes (eighth, 35.6), assists (14th, 3.0) and rebounds (18th, 5.8). She is among the top-3 on the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and 3-pointers made.

Bell has increased her scoring 7.3 points from last season (4.1 ppg in 2011-12), which is currently the seventh-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.

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 10.0 points, 3.1 assists (11th in the Big Ten) and 1.9 steals (12th in the conference), while ranking third on the team with 5.3 rebounds. Those numbers earned her honorable mention All-Big Ten honors on Monday. 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 (89:70), which is sixth in the conference. Over her last seven games, Thomas has 23 assists and has committed only seven turnovers (3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio).

Over the past five games, Thomas has stepped up as the Spartan offensive leader, averaging 15.6 points, posting double figures in each of those games. She has led the team in scoring three times in the last five, including a career-high 21 points at Michigan. It was the first time in her career that she scored in double figures in more than three-straight Big Ten games.

Thomas is shooting 45.6% (57-for-125) in the last 12 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 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 20 games, Johnson is fourth on the team with 9.5 points, and jas team highs of 4.2 assists, 2.1 steals and an 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio in 31.2 minutes.

Her play in Big Ten games this season increased, finishing eighth in the conference with 4.3 assists and 2.2 steals, while scoring 10.1 points. Her 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games, ranked third and her 35.0% 3-point percentage was ninth.

Johnson has led the team in assists in 10 of the last 14 games (4.6 per game), including a season-high nine at Northwestern. In the last nine games, Johnson is 20-for-47 (42.6%) 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 1.67 assist-to-turnover ratio, sixth in assists per game at 4.1 and fifth in steals per game at 1.9.

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 6.4 points, a team-best 6.4 rebounds (which is 13th in the Big Ten) and 2.3 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 nine games, including leading MSU in points at Northwestern (career-high 21), at No. 8 Penn State (16) and at No. 22 Purdue (18).

Pickrel has seen more statistical success coming off the bench this season. In games where she did not start (nine games), she is averaging 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 27.8 minutes, while shooting 46.9% from the field and 42.6% from the 3-point line (2.2 3-pointers per game). As a starter (20 games), Pickrel is averaging 8.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 30.4 minutes, while shooting 38.7% from the field and 34.9% from 3-point (1.9 per game).

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 0.9 steals per game, and committing just 30 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 57-for-153 (.373) 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 eighth in the Big Ten, while her 3-point field goal percentage is 10th in the conference. Her 57 3-pointers this season are currently 10th in the MSU single-season list, while her 76 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 7.9 points and 4.8 rebounds, fourth on the team, in only 17.8 minutes. She also leads the team and is ninth 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.

Tonight's game will mark the 10th game for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 37-22 all-time on BTN, including a 6-3 mark this season.

The Spartans ended their home schedule ranked 10th in the nation and second in the Big Ten with 6,352 fans per game. It marks the ninth-straight season that the Spartans have been among the nation's top-15 in attendance, and the third consecutive year their have been in the top-10.

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 1-4 all-time on March 8.



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