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Women's Basketball Hosts Grand Valley State in Exhibition Thursday Night

Oct. 31, 2007

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Game Information
When: Thursday, Nov. 1 • 7 p.m.
Where: Breslin Center • East Lansing, Mich.

Media Coverage:
Internet: Gametracker at

Gametracker vs. Grand Valley State

The No. 18 Michigan State women's basketball team hosts Grand Valley State in an exhibition contest this Thursday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center.

Suzy Merchant, who owns a 201-120 (.626) career record in 12 years as a head coach, begins her first season leading the Michigan State women's basketball program. She has spent the past nine seasons at Eastern Michigan, compiling a 147-91 (.618) record to become the program's all-time winningest coach. She led EMU to three 20-win seasons, three postseason appearances, including the 2004 NCAA Tournament, and two Mid-American Conference West Division titles. Prior to coaching at Eastern Michigan, Merchant had a 54-29 (.651) record in three years at Saginaw Valley State.

Grand Valley State was tabbed to win the 2007-08 GLIAC North Division title. Ranked 24th in the Division II Bulletin Preseason Poll, GVSU returns seven letterwinners and two starters from last year's squad that made the NCAA Great Lakes Region Tournament for the third consecutive year. The Lakers, who posted a 21-8 record last season, claimed the GLIAC North Division title for the second straight time.

GVSU will be led by new head coach Janel Burgess, who joins the Laker staff after spending three years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Missouri State. Burgess was an assistant coach at Michigan State for four seasons from 2000-04.

The Michigan State women's basketball team is ranked 18th in the preseason USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches' Poll released Wednesday Oct. 31, marking the fourth consecutive season the Spartans have been ranked in the preseason poll.

MSU is one of three Big Ten teams ranked, along with No. 16 Ohio State and No. 20 Purdue. Oklahoma, who visits the Breslin Center on Dec. 16, is ranked sixth, while possible Preseason WNIT opponents Maryland (No. 4) and LSU (No. 5) are also ranked in the top 10.

The Spartans have been ranked in every USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches' Poll for the last three seasons, dating back to the 2004-05 preseason poll.

Michigan State was selected second by the media and fourth by the coaches in the preseason Big Ten poll released Oct. 28.

Michigan State's first-ever preseason ranking arrived in 2004-05, as the Spartans began the year No. 16 in the coaches' poll before finishing a program-record second in the final poll. The Spartans were ranked 11th in the 2005-06 preseason poll and 17th last season.

Allyssa DeHaan has been named one of 30 preseason candidates for the Wooden Award.

The list is composed of female student athletes who, based on last year's individual performance and team records, are the frontrunners for college basketball's most coveted trophy. The top 30 candidates are comprised of returning players. Transfers, freshmen, and medical redshirts are not eligible for this preseason list. They will be evaluated and considered for both the Midseason Top 20 list and the National Ballot.

"The Committee had an incredibly difficult task in narrowing down the nation's top 30 women's players, because over 50 players received at least one vote for the preseason list," said Wooden Award Chairman, Duke Llewellyn. "Our entire team at the Wooden Award is excited to see the best players in the nation vie for basketball's Player of the Year Award."

Three of this year's preseason candidates were honored last season as members of the 2007 Women's Wooden Award All-American Team, including 2007 Wooden Award winner, Candace Parker of the University of Tennessee, Oklahoma's Courtney Paris and LSU's Sylvia Fowles. Parker was the MVP of the 2007 Final Four, leading Tennessee to the 2007 NCAA title.

Three schools had three players on the list: Rutgers (Matee Ajavon, Essence Carson, Kia Vaughn), Tennessee (Parker, Alexis Hornbuckle, Nicky Anosike) and Maryland (Marissa Coleman, Crystal Langhorne, Kristi Toliver). Stanford (Candice Wiggins, Jayne Appel) and Connecticut (Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery) had two players each.

Candidates have been selected from nine NCAA conferences. Conferences include the ACC (five players), the Big 12 (two players), the Pac-10 (three players), the Big East (eight players), the SEC (five players), the Big Ten (three players), the Atlantic 10 (two players), Big Sky (one player) and the Sun Belt Conference (one player).

In mid-January, the Wooden Award Committee will release the Midseason Top 20 list, followed by the official voting ballot in March consisting of approximately 15 players. In order to be considered for the National Ballot each player must be certified by their university as meeting the Award's criteria, including making progress toward graduation, and maintaining a cumulative 2.0 GPA. Over 200 voters, comprised of sports media members and women's college basketball experts from across the nation, will cast their votes for the five-member All-American team and Wooden Award honor as the most outstanding female collegiate basketball player in the nation.

The 2008 Wooden Award Weekend, which will include the presentation of the Men's and Women's Wooden Award, the Wooden Award All-American Teams and the Legends of Coaching Award to Pat Summitt from the University of Tennessee, will take place April 11-April 12, 2008. The top five male and female finalists will be invited to Los Angeles for the Award celebration and will receive a contribution from The Los Angeles Athletic Club in their name to their university's general scholarship fund.

The Michigan State women's basketball team was selected second by the media and fourth by the coaches in the preseason Big Ten poll released Sunday morning at Big Ten Basketball Media Day. Sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan, the 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was named to both preseason All-Big Ten teams and was a unanimous choice by the coaches.

MSU returns three starters to the court from last season's 24-9 team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round.

Junior forward Aisha Jefferson, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, averaged 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. Reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and 6-9 center Allyssa DeHaan set the Big Ten record for blocks her first season with 145, and brings back her 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

Although junior guard Mia Johnson (8.3 ppg, 3.9 rpg) tore her ACL during s ummer workouts, she is expected to be back into the lineup for the start of Big Ten season.

Seniors Courtney Davidson and Alisa Wulff and sophomores Mandy Piechowski and Takeya Fortner all return. Lauren Aitch, who received a medical redshirt last season due to a torn ACL, is back and healthy this season.

Four freshmen will also see time for MSU: Kalisha Keane, Brittney Thomas, Taja Wilson and Cetera Washington. DeHaan had one of the most dominant freshman seasons in league history. She set the new standard for blocks with a Big Ten-record 145, a total that was the highest for a freshman in NCAA history. A consensus selection for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, DeHaan was also named second-team All-Big Ten for averaging 12.6 points per game and a team-best 7.5 rebounds per game. DeHaan gained valuable experience over the summer while playing for Team USA at the FIBA U19 World Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia, where she led the team and ranked second among all players in blocks.

Ohio State was selected to repeat as Big Ten Champions in 2007-08, while Wisconsin senior Jolene Anderson was named the Preseason Player of the Year by the coaches and the media and was a unanimous selection to the Preseason All-Big Ten team by both groups.

The Buckeyes won their third consecutive Big Ten title in 2006-07, finishing 28-4 overall and 15-1 in conference play. Head Coach Jim Foster returns three starters from last year's squad, including State Farm Wade Trophy candidate Marscilla Packer, who was selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten team by the coaches and the media, and Star Allen, a preseason pick by the media.

Led by Anderson, Wisconsin was selected to finish second by the coaches and third by the media after going 23-13 overall last year with a 7-9 conference mark. Head Coach Lisa Stone welcomes back all five starters from last year's squad that advanced to the Postseason WNIT championship game, including Anderson who was last year's Big Ten scoring champion.

Illinois was tabbed as the No. 3 finisher in the coaches poll and No. 6 by the media. First-year head coach Jolette Law welcomes back all five starters from the squad that finished fourth in the conference last season with an 8-8 record (19-12 overall). Junior Lori Bjork was selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten team by the coaches and the media after setting a school record with 84 three-pointers in 2006-07.



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