Spartans Host North Carolina State in WNIT Semifinals Wednesday Night
April 1, 2008
MICHIGAN STATE (22-13) vs. NORTH CAROLINA STATE (21-12)
NCSU: Kay Yow (East Carolina, 1964)
The Michigan State women's basketball team will look for its fourth straight victory Wednesday night as it hosts North Carolina State in the WNIT semifinals at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center. The 48-team field of the WNIT is down to four, as Marquette plays at Colorado in the other semifinal. The WNIT championship game is set for Saturday, April 5 at 4 p.m. on the CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV).
After receiving a first-round bye, the Spartans (22-13) defeated Bowling Green in the second round, 74-66, and Kansas in the third round, 58-54. In the quarterfinals, MSU had a stirring comeback to top rival Michigan, 45-40, in overtime. Down 37-28 with 6:26 to go, the Spartans closed the second half on a 9-0 to send the game into the extra session before outscoring the Wolverines 8-3 in OT. Michigan State has played all of its WNIT games at home and is riding a seven-game winning streak at the Breslin Center.
The Wolfpack enter East Lansing with a 21-12 mark after beating St. John's in the quarterfinals at home on Sunday, 63-61, on a game-winning shot with 18 seconds remaining. NC State, who also received a first-round bye, took care of South Carolina in the second round, 72-69, before crushing Florida in the third round, 80-55.
Michigan State Athletics is encouraging fans to "Think Pink" for the game as a tribute to legendary North Carolina State head coach Kay Yow. Yow, who owns a 729-336 career record in her 37th year of coaching, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, and is currently battling the disease for the third time. She is one of only six Division I head women's basketball mentors to achieve 700 career victories. Yow was also the head coach of the 1988 US Olympic Team that won the gold medal in Seoul. In 33 years at North Carolina State, she has led the Wolfpack to a 672-317 record.
MICHIGAN STATE WNIT HISTORY
This marks MSU's second appearance in the WNIT semifinals. In 2002, MSU went 3-1 before falling at Oregon in the semifinals.
The Spartans are 10-3 all-time in the WNIT.
Michigan State is making its seventh straight appearance in the postseason.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Kalisha Keane, MSU's top freshman scorer in school history, leads the team with 15.0 points a game in the WNIT. She also has 10 steals (3.3 avg.) and 18 rebounds (6.0 avg.) in the tournament.
In the third-round win against Kansas, DeHaan became the 20th player in MSU history to collect 500 career rebounds. She also collected her 900th career point.
MSU is 16-0 when it has more assists than its opponent.
Michigan State is 14-3 when leading at the half and 15-1 when leading with five minutes left in the game.
MSU is 15-2 when holding teams to under 60 points.
The Spartans are 9-1 when games are decided by five points or less.
MSU has won seven straight at the Breslin Center.
MSU has won 12 postseason games the past five years, the most of any Big Ten team.
Wednesday's game marks the third game in MSU history in April. The other two arrived in the 2005 Final Four, when MSU beat Tennessee in the national semifinals on April 3 before falling to Baylor in the national championship game on April 5.
The Spartans are the last Big Ten team remaining in the postseason.
Michigan State's 22 wins are tied with Ohio State for the most in the Big Ten this season.
MSU'S 22 WINS TIE FOR FIFTH MOST IN SCHOOL HISTORY
1. 33 (2004-05)
Michigan State has recorded five straight 20-win seasons and is making its seventh consecutive appearance in the postseason. The Spartans have won a postseason game five consecutive years, and their 12 postseason wins during that stretch is the most of any Big Ten team.
MSU is 9-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (wins over Kansas State, Delaware State, Illinois, Michigan (twice), Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas; only loss at Hartford).
Michigan State is one of the youngest teams in the country - out of MSU's 12 active players, nine are freshmen and sophomores, the most underclassmen of any team in the Big Ten. MSU's starting lineup the past 13 games features two freshmen, two sophomores and one junior. MSU is the only team in the Big Ten to start three freshmen (Brittney Thomas, Cetera Washington and Kalisha Keane) in a game this season. Eighty percent of the team's scoring comes from the underclassmen.
Sophomore 6-9 center Allyssa DeHaan, who set a Big Ten record last season with 145 blocked shots, is second in the country with 140 blocked shots (4.0 pg). She is the first player in Big Ten history to record 100 blocks in two different seasons. A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the media, she leads the team in scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.5 rpg), and is just the fifth player at MSU to score 500 points in a season. MSU's all-time leader in blocked shots with 285, DeHaan was on national player of the year watch lists this season for the Naismith Award, the Wooden Award and the Wade Trophy. She was named Big Ten Player of the Week three times this season.
The Spartans are relying on a heralded freshman class for extended minutes this season. The class, ranked among the top 20 in the nation, features point guard Brittney Thomas (7.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.5 apg) and forwards Kalisha Keane (12.2 ppg), Cetera Washington (3.0 ppg) and Taja Wilson (2.7 ppg). The trio of Thomas, Keane and Washington started 17 times this year for the Spartans. Thomas and Keane became just the second Spartan duo to be named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in the same season (Lindsay Bowen, Liz Shimek in 2003). Keane is 14th in the Big Ten in scoring and has scored in double figures 23 times this season; she is the top freshman scorer in school history with 429 points.
Freshman point guard Brittney Thomas is one of the most versatile freshmen in the Big Ten. The honorable mention All-Big Ten selection leads conference freshmen in minutes (34.9 avg.) and assists (3.5 avg.). Thomas also ranks second in steals (1.8 avg.), fourth in rebounding (5.5 avg.) and field-goal percentage (.478), and fifth in scoring (7.5 avg.). In MSU's freshman record book, she is second in assists with 124. Her 191 rebounds are the most ever by a Spartan freshman guard.
The other returning starter and tri-captain, junior guard Mia Johnson, tore her ACL during summer workouts and missed the first eight games of the season. After slowly re-entering the rotation, she started her first game of the season at Illinois on Jan. 24, and responded by scoring a season-high 20 points. She has started the last 15 games (MSU record: 11-4) and is currently averaging 3.4 points and 17 minutes per game. Johnson averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg in 29.6 minutes a game last season, her first for the Green and White after transferring from Saint Louis University in 2005-06.
Sophomore center Lauren Aitch (7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), who received a medical redshirt last season due to a torn ACL, is back and healthy this season. She has scored in double figures 11 times this season, including a career-best 16-point performance vs. Clemson Nov. 29. MSU is 8-3 when Aitch scores in double figures.
Senior guard Courtney Davidson is having her most productive season as a Spartan. She is averaging career bests in points (7.4) and minutes (21.9). She leads the team with 42 3-pointers made, which is tied for 15th most in an MSU single-season, and has made at least three 3-pointers in eight games. Davidson has come through in the clutch several times this season - she scored a career-high 20 points on Senior Night against Illinois; poured in 18 points in the comeback win over Iowa Jan. 10; and scored 17 in the win against Purdue Feb. 11, including two free throws with 15.6 seconds left on the clock to give MSU the 56-54 victory.
Sophomore guard Mandy Piechowski tied a career high with four 3-pointers in the win over Bowling Green. Piechowski has scored in double figures three times this season, including a career-high 14 points at Minnesota on Jan. 27. Piechowski has started the last 13 games (MSU record: 10-3).
The Spartans lost power forward Aisha Jefferson to a season-ending knee injury in the second exhibition game against Lake Superior State. Jefferson, one of three captains named by Coach Merchant at the beginning of the season, was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last year after averaging 10.4 ppg and 5.6 rpg.
A GLANCE AT NORTH CAROLINA STATE:
Senior forward Khadijah Whittington leads the team in scoring (16.9 ppg) and rebounding (11.7 rpg). Whittington was a first-team All-ACC selection and is among the finalists for the Naismith Trophy and the State Farm All-America team. The top rebounder in the ACC this season, she is just one of three players in conference history to compile 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 100 blocks in a career.
Junior guard Shayla Fields is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.8 points per game. She hit the game-winning jumper against St. John's with 18 seconds remaining. Fields has been on fire of late, averaging 18.2 points over the last 10 games, including a career high 31 in the win over Florida in the third round of the WNIT.
COMMON OPPONENTS: MSU and NC State played two common opponents this season - Illinois and Clemson. MSU went 3-1 against those teams, defeating Clemson in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and claiming the season series from Illinois, 2-1. NC State went 2-1, splitting the season series with Clemson and beating Illinois.
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