Spartans to Play for WNIT Title Saturday Against Marquette
April 4, 2008
WNIT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
MICHIGAN STATE (23-13) vs. MARQUETTE (20-14)
MU: Terri Mitchell (Duquesne, 1989)
The Michigan State women's basketball team will look for its first-ever WNIT title as it hosts the 2008 championship game against Marquette Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated Bowling Green, Kansas, Michigan and North Carolina State en route to the final game of the 48-team tournament, while the Golden Eagles beat Creighton, Illinois, Kentucky and Colorado. The game, which marks just the second meeting between the two schools, will be televised on the CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV).
The Spartans (23-13) advanced to the championship game with a thrilling 58-57 semifinal victory over North Carolina State on Wednesday. The two teams traded leads four times in the final 90 seconds, but Allyssa DeHaan's putback with 11 seconds left proved to be the difference. Junior Mia Johnson led MSU with 17 points and three 3-pointers, while DeHaan poured in 15 points to go along with five blocks. In the game, DeHaan tied her own Big Ten single-season blocks record, as she now has 145 for the season. Michigan State has played all of its WNIT games at home and is riding an eight-game winning streak at the Breslin Center.
Entering the title game, MSU has won 10 of its last 12 games. A win on Saturday would give MSU 24 wins on the season, which would tie for the second-most victories in school history. The Spartans are also an impressive 10-1 in games decided by five points or less, including three straight in the WNIT.
Marquette (20-14) topped Colorado in the semifinals on the road, 86-72, to reach the title game. The Golden Eagles, who tied for eighth in the Big East Conference with an 8-8 mark, have won six of their last eight games. Two-time first-team All-Big East selection Krystal Ellis leads the team in scoring with 19.5 ppg and scored 40 in the quarterfinal win at Kentucky.
MICHIGAN STATE WNIT HISTORY
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
MSU'S 23 WINS TIE FOR FOURTH BEST SEASON 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 13 postseason wins during that stretch is the most of any Big Ten team.
MSU is 10-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (wins over Kansas State, Delaware State, Illinois, Michigan (twice), Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Kansas, NC State; 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 14 games (record: 11-3) features two freshmen (Keane, Thomas), two sophomores (DeHaan, Piechowski) and one junior (Johnson). Eighty percent of the team's scoring comes from the underclassmen.
Sophomore 6-9 center Allyssa DeHaan, who has tied her own Big Ten single-season record with 145 blocked shots, is second in the country in blocks. 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 (7.4 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 290, 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 (7.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.6 apg) and forwards Kalisha Keane (12.1 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 16th 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 436 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 (35.1 avg.) and assists (3.6 avg.). Thomas also ranks second in steals (1.8 avg.), fourth in rebounding (5.4 avg.) and fifth in scoring (7.4 avg.). In MSU's freshman record book, she is second in assists with 128. Her 196 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 16 games (MSU record: 12-4) and is currently averaging 3.9 points and 18 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. Johnson scored 17 in the WNIT semifinals over NC State.
Sophomore center Lauren Aitch (7.3 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 12 times this season, including a career-best 16-point performance vs. Clemson Nov. 29. MSU is 9-3 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 (7.2) and minutes (21.4). 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 in the second round of the WNIT. 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 14 games (MSU record: 11-3).
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 MARQUETTE
Marquette has been in this situation before, reaching the WNIT championship game in 2006. The Golden Eagles fell in the title game at Kansas State, 77-65.
Two-time first-team All-Big East selection Krystal Ellis leads the team in scoring with 19.5 ppg and scored 40 in the quarterfinal win at Kentucky. Ellis ranks among the national leaders in free throws, 3-point field goals and 3-point field-goal percentage. Freshman guard Angel Robinson is second on the team with 11.3 ppg.
The Eagles play an up-tempo game, averaging 70 points and ranking among the top 20 in the nation in steals with more than 11 per contest.
COACH TERRI MITCHELL:
COMMON OPPONENTS: MSU and Marquette have played five common opponents this season (Wisconsin, Kansas, Northwestern, Providence and Illinois). MSU went 6-2 against those teams, while Marquette went 3-2 (wins against Wisconsin, Providence and Illinois, losses to Kansas and Northwestern).
MARQUETTE PROBABLE STARTERS
DEHAAN MSU'S ALL-TIME BLOCKS LEADER
DeHaan, who set the Big Ten single-season record with 145 blocked shots her freshman year and has tied that mark again this season, is second in the nation in blocks. Her 145 blocks are tied for eighth most in NCAA history. She is the first player in Big Ten history to record 100 blocks in two different seasons.
The NCAA single-season record for blocked shots was set earlier this season by Louella Tomlinson, a 6-4 freshman from Saint Mary's (Calif.). She not only broke DeHaan's freshman record but the overall blocks record with 156 blocks her first season (4.9 avg.). The previous record was held by Amie Williams of Jackson State, who had 152 in 2003.
The NCAA career record is 480, set by TCU's Sandora Irvin from 2002-05. Jessica Davenport of Ohio State owns the Big Ten career record with 384.
With three blocks at Providence on Dec. 20, DeHaan became the fastest player in NCAA Division I history to reach the 200-block milestone while playing in her freshman and sophomore seasons (44 games).
DEHAAN ONE OF FIVE PLAYERS IN MSU HISTORY TO SCORE 500 POINTS IN A SEASON
She has recorded six double-doubles and has scored in double-figures 28 times. She has five games with 20-plus points, including a season-high 27 at Wisconsin Jan. 2, tying the second-highest total of her career (career-high: 28 points vs. Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 2006).
LAST TIME OUT: WNIT SEMIFINALS - MSU 58, NORTH CAROLINA STATE 57
Mia Johnson scored 17 points, her second-best scoring effort of the season...she scored 20 at Illinois in her first start of the year...Johnson has started the last 16 games for the Spartans, and MSU's record is 12-4 during those games...she hit two clutch 3-pointers in the second half, both of which gave MSU the lead after the score was tied.
The game had four lead changes in the final 90 seconds and eight lead changes for the game.
DeHaan scored 15 points, giving her 520 for the season, which ranks fifth most in school history...she is one of just five Spartans to score 500 points in a single-season.
Brittney Thomas played all 40 minutes...she played all 40 against Kansas in the third round and all 45 in the overtime quarterfinal win over Michigan...it marks the eighth game this season she has played the entire game.
Lauren Aitch was 6-for-9 from the field and scored 12 points...MSU is 9-3 this season and 11-3 in her career when she scores in double-figures.
MSU held Wolfpack guard Shayla Fields to 1-of-9 shooting and three points...Fields came into the game averaging 18.2 points in her last 10 games.
The Spartans improve to 16-2 when holding opponents to under 60 points.
MSU, the Big Ten leader in field-goal percentage defense, held NC State to 39 percent shooting from the field.
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