Spartans Take On Illinois Saturday Night In Big Ten Tournament Semifinals

March 8, 2008

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No. 5 seed MICHIGAN STATE (19-12, 10-8) vs. No. 9 seed ILLINOIS (18-13, 8-10)

Game Information
When: Saturday, March 8 • approximately 8:30 p.m.
Where: Conseco Fieldhouse • Indianapolis, Ind.

Media Coverage
TV: Big Ten Network (DirecTV Ch. 220)
Announcers:Mark Neely (Play-by-Play); Vera Jones (Analysis)
Radio: WJIM 1240 AM/WVFN 730 AM/XM Ch. 196/; Rick Berkey (Play-by-Play)
Live Stats: Gametracker at

Series History
Overall: MSU leads, 31-25
Last meeting: @ MSU 54, Illinois 46 (2/28/08)

MSU: Suzy Merchant (Central Michigan, 1991)
Overall: 220-132 (13th year)
At MSU: 19-12 (first year)

ILL: Jolette Law (Iowa, 1990)
Overall: 18-13 (first year)
At Illinois: same

The Michigan State women's basketball team, seeded fifth, takes on No. 9 seed Illinois Saturday night in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. The Spartans defeated No. 4 seed Minnesota in Friday's quarterfinals, 56-51, to advance to the semifinals for the fifth straight year.

Illinois opened tournament action Thursday with a 73-58 victory over eighth-seeded Wisconsin. The Fighting Illini then pulled off the upset over top-seed Ohio State, 64-58, in the quarterfinals. It marked just the second time in tournament history a No. 1 seed fell in the quarterfinals (Purdue, 1997).

Michigan State rallied from a six-point deficit with under four minutes remaining to get past the Gophers for the first time in three tries this season. Allyssa DeHaan, who played just three minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, scored all 12 of her points in the second half. Brittney Thomas, playing in her first Big Ten Tournament game, also poured in 12 points while grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. With MSU clinging to a one-point lead with one minute remaining, senior captain Alisa Wulff hit perhaps the biggest shot of her career with a 3-pointer from the corner, giving MSU a 63-59 lead. Mia Johnson iced the game with two free throws with 10 seconds left.

MSU and Illinois recently met in East Lansing on Feb. 28 in MSU's regular-season finale. Although Illinois raced out to a 12-point lead in the first half, the Spartans came back to win, 54-46, behind senior Courtney Davidson's career-high 20 points. Michigan State also won the first meeting of the season with a 65-62 victory in Champaign on Jan. 24. Johnson paced the Spartans with a season-high 20 points, and DeHaan hit the go-ahead shot with 11 seconds remaining to put MSU ahead, 64-62.

• The Spartans are 11-12 all-time in the Big Ten Tournament, which started in 1995.
• Michigan State won its first Big Ten Tournament title in 2005 with a victory over Minnesota. It marked MSU's only appearance in the championship game.
• MSU has won at least one game in the Big Ten Tournament and has advanced to at least the semifinals five straight years. Last year, the Spartans defeated Minnesota in the quarterfinals and fell in the semifinals to Purdue.
• Michigan State is 1-4 in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. MSU's only win in the semifinals arrived in 2005 with an 83-76 win over Penn State.

• MSU leads the all-time series over Illinois, 31-25.
• The Spartans are 1-2 against Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois defeated MSU in the 1997 semifinals, 77-66, and in the 2000 quarterfinals, 72-67. In the opening win for MSU on its 2005 title run, the Spartans beat the Illini in the quarterfinals in overtime, 61-50. • MSU has won nine of its last 10 games against Illinois.
• The Spartans are 3-2 vs. Illinois in neutral site games.

• The Spartans have won six of their last seven games and eight of their last 11.
• The Spartans finished the Big Ten season 10-8, marking the sixth straight season MSU has won 10 or more games during the conference season.
• After starting out the Big Ten season 1-3, the Spartans won nine of their last 14 conference games.
• In her first career Big Ten Tournament game, Allyssa DeHaan scored 27 points against Minnesota last year in the quarterfinals. DeHaan, an all-tournament team selection, scored 43 points (21.5 avg.) in two games at last year's tournament.

• Michigan State is looking for its fifth straight season with 20 or more wins.
• Coach Merchant is looking to become the second MSU coach to win 20 games in her first year. Karen Langeland, MSU's all-time winningest coach with 376 wins, won 23 her first season in 1976-77.
Allyssa DeHaan has 456 points, which is 15th most in MSU single-season history. DeHaan scored 411 points in 33 games last season.
Kalisha Keane is moving up in several categories in MSU's freshman record book. She is looking to break Allyssa DeHaan's scoring record of 411 points set last season. Keane is currently third with 374 points, trailing just Lindsay Bowen (386) and DeHaan.