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Spartans Travel to Maryland, Face No. 7-seed Louisville Saturday

Senior Lykendra Johnson has started all seven of the Spartans' NCAA Tournament games in the last three seasons.

March 15, 2012

No 10-seed Michigan State (19-11) vs. No. 7-seed Louisville (22-9)
2012 NCAA Tournament First Round
 Date Saturday, March 17
 Time approx. 1:45 p.m. ET
 Location College Park, Md. | Comacst Center
 Television ESPN2 |
Bob Wischusen (play-by-play); LaChina Robinson (analyst)
 Radio WJIM 1240AM
Rick Berkey (play-by-play)
Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Internet Coverage College Park Site Information | NCAA Tournament Central
Bracket (pdf) | Interactive Bracket
 Game Notes Michigan State | Louisville
 Statistics Michigan State (html | pdf) | Louisville
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

Michigan State is making its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance, and its ninth in the last 10 years. All-time, the Spartans are 15-11 in the NCAA Tournament. MSU has won seven straight first round games, with its last loss coming in 2003, and is 9-1 all-time in its first game. The Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2006 and 2009, and the National Title game in 2005. The No. 10 seed is the lowest in program history.

MSU is also one of 22 schools who have qualified for the last four NCAA Tournaments. In the previous three trips, the Spartans are one of 10 teams to have won at least one game in each tournament. [Baylor, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State (not in 2012 field), Gonzaga, MSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Texas A&M]

Over the last eight years, Michigan State has posted a 13-7 record in the NCAA Tournament. Its 13 wins are the 11th most in the nation and are the most among Big Ten schools. [Connecticut 28, Stanford 25, Tennessee 24, Baylor 19, Duke 19, LSU 18, North Carolina 17, Rutgers 16, Maryland 15, Oklahoma 15]

This will be head coach Suzy Merchant's fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament, posting a 4-4 record. She guided the Spartans to the Sweet 16 in 2009, the second round the last two seasons, and took Eastern Michigan to the tournament in 2004.

Seven Spartans enter the weekend with previous NCAA Tournament experience, however, the group has totaled only 107 points in 23 combined games. Senior Lykendra Johnson has started all seven MSU games over the past three seasons, averaging 7.2 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28.0 minutes. Classmate Taylor Alton didn't get her first NCAA floor action until last season, but made the most of it, averaging 11.5 points, while hitting seven 3-pointers, in the two games. The final senior Porsche Poole has played in five NCAA games, but has scored only four points in 33 minutes.

Michigan State faced 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament bracket during the regular season, going 7-7. The Spartans posted two wins against No. 4 Penn State and No. 11 Michigan, in addition to home wins against No. 4 Purdue, No. 6 Nebraska and No. 12 Eastern Michigan. MSU lost twice to No. 4 Purdue, while also dropping games to No. 3 Miami, No. 8 Ohio State, No. 9 Texas, No. 9 Iowa and No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast.

The Big Ten Conference qualified a record seven schools for the NCAAs - Iowa, Michigan, MSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. The previous record was six, set in 1996, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Among other conferences, the Big Ten is tied for third for most schools, behind the Big East (8) and SEC (8), and tied with the Big 12.

The Cardinals, who earned the No. 7 seed in the Raleigh Region, enter the weekend with a 22-9 record and ranked No. 19 in both national polls. Louisville finished in a tie for sixth in the Big East and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big East Championship. The Cardinals are making their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance and sixth in the last seven years.

Offensively U of L is led by sophomore Shoni Schimmel, who was a first-team All-Big East selection. Schimmel leads the Cardinals with 14.3 points, 4.5 assists and 2.4 steals, while knocking down 71 3-pointers on the season. Senior Becky Burke leads the team with 79 3-pointers, which is 29th in the nation, while making 38.9% from behind the arc, which is 21st nationally. Burke is also second on the team with 11.6 points. Louisville is +4.2 on the glass this season, with seven players averaging at least 3.5 a game.

Michigan State and Louisville have met only one time. The Spartans beat the Cardinals 82-73 in East Lansing on Nov. 25, 1990.

The two schools have two common opponents this season - Pittsburgh and Villanova. MSU went 0-2 against those two teams in the non-conference schedule, while Louisville went 3-0, beating both in the Big East regular season and Villanova again in the Big East Tournament Second Round.

The Cardinals also played 10 teams in this year's field of 64, but posted only a 3-9 record. Louisville had wins over No. 5 Georgetown, No. 7 DePaul and No. 15 UT-Martin. The Cardinals' losses were against No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 1 Connecticut, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 St. John's (twice), No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 6 Rutgers, No. 7 DePaul and No. 8 West Virginia.

Michigan State opened the Big Ten Tournament with a 97-68 win over Indiana, before losing to eventual champion Purdue, 73-64, in the quarterfinals. The three Spartan seniors all averaged double-figures for the tournament, led by 15.5 points from Lykendra Johnson. She posted a season high 23 points to go along with 11 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season vs. Purdue, while also setting a new career high with five blocks. Porsche Poole scored in double figures in both games, averaging 13.5 points, while Taylor Alton added 11.5 points. Freshman Kiana Johnson dished out a team-best eight assists with no turnovers in 51 minutes of action.

The Spartans began the tournament by scoring the second highest point total (97) in the 18-year history of the conference tournament. MSU had a balanced offensive attack, as four Spartans scored in double-figures and 11 tallied at least two points. Poole and freshman Jasmine Hines led the way with 17 points apiece. Hines, whose total was a career high, went 4-of-6 from the field and 9-of-11 from the foul line in only 14 minutes off the bench, also adding a career- and game-high six rebounds. MSU used a 13-0 run in the first half to take control and made its first six 3-pointers in the second half to put the game away for good. The Spartans shot 50.8% from the field, including a 10-for-19 (52.6%) from behind the arc, while knocking down 21-of-25 (84.0%) from the free throw line. MSU forced 19 Indiana turnovers, while committing a season-low nine of its own. MSU also had a season high 21 assists.

The Spartans' run in the 2012 Big Ten Tournament came to an end against No. 21 Purdue in the quarterfinals, despite L. Johnson's best offensive game of the season. Junior Jasmine Thomas had quality minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points, while senior Porsche Poole also tallied double figures with 10 points. The first half was full of runs. Purdue scored the first seven points, to be followed by 13 unanswered points by the Spartans to jump out to a 13-7 lead eight minutes into the game. The Boilermakers responded with a 22-6 spurt to open a double digit lead at 29-19 with 5:33 on the clock. Three straight 3-pointers from Brittany Rayburn, who scored a game high 29 points, capped a 13-2 run for Purdue in the opening moments of the second half, opening a 54-34 lead with 15 minutes to go. Michigan State did not fold though, eventually putting together eight-straight points to get within nine (57-48) with 11 minutes to go. However, the Spartans could not get over the hump, and close the margin in the final minutes.

The Big Ten Conference released its postseason awards Monday, Feb. 27, as three Spartans were honored. Seniors Lykendra Johnson and Porsche Poole were named All-Big Ten Second Team, while Kiana Johnson was selected to the All-Freshman Team. L. Johnson was also the team's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner. In Suzy Merchant's five seasons at MSU, the Spartans have had a Big Ten best 17 all-conference selections.

L. Johnson earns All-Big Ten honors for the fourth-straight season, becoming the sixth Spartan to accomplish that feat, joining Lindsay Bowen, Allyssa DeHaan, Kalisha Keane, Liz Shimek and Brittney Thomas. L. Johnson and Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis are the only two Big Ten student-athletes to be honored each of the last four seasons.

L. Johnson was a second team selection by the media and a third team choice by the conference's coaches. Poole was recognized for her breakout senior season, earning second team honors from the Big Ten coaches and third team accolades from the media. It is the first time in her career that she earned postseason conference honors. K. Johnson is the first Spartan since 2008-09 (Lykendra Johnson) to be named to the five-member All-Freshman Team, voted on by the coaches.

Against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State won its 20th game for the ninth-straight season. MSU is one of 13 teams in the nation, and one of two in the Big Ten (Ohio State), to have won at least 20 games in each of the last eight seasons [Baylor, Bowling Green, Connecticut, Duke, Green Bay, Marist, Middle Tennessee State, Ohio State, Stanford, Temple, Tennessee and Vanderbilt].

10 for 10
Michigan State finished the Big Ten season tied for second with a 11-5 record. The Spartans have finished second or better is each of the last four seasons - winning the title last year, and placing second in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12.

The Spartans have now 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 117-49 (70.5%) in conference play over the last 10 seasons, trailing only OSU in winning percentage. MSU has won 34 of its last 43 Big Ten regular season games (79.1%) over the past two-plus seasons.

For the third straight season, Michigan State led the Big Ten in conference games in points allowed. Always a point of emphasis for Coach Merchant, the Spartans allowed only 60.6 points in this season's 16 Big Ten games.

After the Spartans lost their fourth straight Big Ten game midway through the season, head coach Suzy Merchant adjusted the starting lineup, moving senior Porsche Poole and sophomore Klarissa Bell into the starting five and pushing senior Taylor Alton to the 4-position. Since then, Michigan State has won eight of its last 10 games, including three against ranked opponents.

During this 10-game span, the Spartans have been more offensively efficient, increasing their production in all areas. MSU is averaging 71.6 points and 15.4 assists, while shooting 44.5% from the field, 36.3% from the 3-point line and 68.9% from the foul line, compared to 65.4 points, 13.6 assists, 40.9% field goal percentage, 31.1% 3-point percentage and 65.4% free throw percentage in the season's first 21 games. Another important factor has been a reduction in turnovers, averaging 13.1 in the last 10, compared to 17.7 in the first 21.

Individually, the increased play of the senior class, in addition to Bell, have been the catalysts. Each of the three seniors have increased their scoring - Poole (11.5 to 17.8), Lykendra Johnson (9.8 to 13.4) and Taylor Alton (7.6 to 8.7) - while Bell has seen a drastic change going from 1.8 points in 7.1 minutes to 7.8 points in 30.3 minutes.

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 51-4 (92.7%), including winning their last 34 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 88-8 (91.7%), including 12 straight wins.

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 four Big Ten student-athletes (since the sport was sponsored in 1981), to surpass 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 100 blocks in her career.

At Northwestern in the regular season finale, she became the second Spartan and 13th Big Ten player to total 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career. Earlier in the season at Texas on Dec. 10, Johnson became the 22nd Spartan in program history to surpass 1,000 career points. She has now totaled 1,237 points in her MSU career, good for 11th place. Johnson will leave as one of the top rebounders in school history, currently second all-time in rebounds (1,015) and offensive rebounds (404).

Johnson is the only Spartan to rank in the top-5 in both career blocks (third with 145) and steals (fifth with 222). She also is among the Michigan State leaders in each shooting category, ranking sixth in free throws made (302), 14th in field goals (438) and 16th in 3-point field goals (59). She is also sixth in career starts (115), 10th with 130 games played and 10th with 3,341 minutes.

Over the last six weeks of play, Porsche Poole is second among all Big Ten players with 18.7 points and fourth with 4.6 assists a game, while also ranking fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.5) and 12th in steals (1.6). She has also increased her rebounding to 4.6 a game during the 11-game hot streak.

Over the 11-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.

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 in the 2011-12 campaign. She is second in the Big Ten with 8.7 rebounds a game, despite playing just 26.8 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.2 and is second in the league with 10 double-doubles.

Johnson recently moved into second place on the Spartan all-time rebound list, and currently has totaled 1,015. In terms of all-time Big Ten rebounders, Johnson is 12th among conference student-athletes since the conference began sponsoring the sport prior to the 1981-82 season (only 14 rebounds away from breaking into the top-10). On the offensive boards, she is second at MSU (404), since the stat began being recorded in 1986-87.

Johnson has 27 career double-doubles, ranking her sixth on the MSU career list. In addition, she has 39 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.

Johnson's value on the floor for the Spartans is undeniable. So far this season, MSU is +275 with her on the court, but are -35 when she is sitting on the bench. Dating back to the beginning of last year's Big Ten play, the Spartans are +462 with Johnson on the floor, but -84 when she was on the bench.

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 13.5 points per game, which is 16th in the Big Ten. Her +7.4 point increase from last year's average is the fourth largest improvement in the conference so far this season and is also the fourth-best increase in Spartan history. Poole has scored in double-figures in 22 games and led MSU in scoring 15 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 45.9% from the field, which ranks second on the team and 12th in the Big Ten.

Freshman Kiana Johnson was recognized for her success this season by being named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team. Within the conference freshmen, she is first in assist-to-turnover ratio, second in steals, third in assists, and sixth in points. Among freshmen nationally, Johnson is 10th in assists and second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Her 126 assists this season are already third among all-time Spartan freshmen. She is seven assists away from tying Brittney Thomas for second and just 17 shy of the freshman record held by Vnemina Reese.

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 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 30.3 minutes over the last 10 games.

Since becoming a starter, Bell has set career highs in points (18), steals (3) and minutes (38), all against Nebraska, and assists (5 at Northwestern), while also setting season highs in rebounds (8 vs. Iowa). She is also shooting 50.0% from the field, second on the team, during the stretch. Bell has made 10-of-22 (45.5%) from the 3-point line, after starting her career by making only 7-of-48 (14.6%) in her first 49 games.

Senior Taylor Alton took advantage of an opportunity and has been in the Spartan starting lineup ever since. She has started the last 46 games, averaging 7.9 points over that span, after posting just 3.0 points in her first 35 career games. Alton has been a good luck charm for MSU when she reaches double-figures, as the Spartans are 16-0 in those games in her career.

Michigan State's top threat from behind the arc, Alton leads the team and is fourth in the Big Ten with 2.1 3-pointers a game. Her 64 3-pointers this season are the seventh most in a MSU single-season. She also leads the team with a 37.4% mark from behind the line, which is sixth in the Big Ten. For her career, Alton is eighth all-time at MSU with 116 3-pointers and fourth with a 36.0% 3-point percentage.

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 23 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 7.8 points and 4.6 assists (compared to 2.3 turnovers).

Johnson's assist-to-turnover ratio (1.73) 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. It is also tied for 44th in the nation and second among freshmen nationally.

Johnson leads the Spartans and is seventh in the Big Ten with 4.1 assists per game, and is third overall with a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. She increased her production in conference games, finishing tied for second in assists (4.7) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.7). Johnson is second on the team lead in steals with 1.7 a game, 13th in the Big Ten.

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 395 free throws (19.8 a game), in comparison to 14.2 a game in the losses (156 total). In its 20 wins, MSU is +66 in free throw attempts (+3.3 a game), while -85 (-7.7) in the 11 losses. The Spartans have been 43-5 over the last three seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 12-3 mark this season.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 23rd in the country in rebound margin (+6.7). Senior Lykendra Johnson is second in the Big Ten with 8.7 a game, and leads the conference with 3.2 offensive boards.

MSU has out-rebounded 48 of its last 57 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 115-52 (.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 10th-best career winning percentage in conference games, winning 68.6% (59-27), and has the second highest percentage among active coaches.

Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 316-172 (.648) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).

Michigan State had won three-straight games against ranked opponents, until its last loss to No. 21 Purdue. With its wins over Purdue and Nebraska, it was the first time in program history that an unranked Spartan team has beaten back-to-back ranked teams. This season, the Spartans are 4-5 against teams in the top-25 this season. Under Coach Merchant, MSU is 15-16 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.

Michigan State is 0-1 all-time on March 17. MSU lost to Wisconsin in the quarterfinals of the WNIT in 2000.



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