Nov. 2, 2011
About Lake Superior State
Lake Superior State was picked third in the GLIAC North Division preseason poll. Maria Blazejewski was named preseason first-team All-GLIAC, and Cassy Schemberger garnered second team honors. Blazejewski was second-team All-GLIAC last year after averaging 13.2 points and 5.0 rebounds, while Schemberger led the GLIAC in field goal percentage (.659) and finished sixth in rebounds (6.8). First-year head coach Justin Rees inherits a team that went 16-10 last year and tied for second in the GLIAC North Division at 13-6. LSSU returns only two starters and 56% of its scoring.
The Spartans were picked third in the media's preseason Big Ten poll, trailing Penn State and Purdue. Also released at Big Ten Media Day, senior Lykendra Johnson was selected to the five-member All-Big Ten Preseason Team by both the coaches and media. In the initial national rankings, MSU is 25th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and receiving votes in the Associated Press poll.
Head coach Suzy Merchant named seniors Taylor Alton and Lykendra Johnson, and redshirt junior Courtney Schiffauer as the team's captains for the 2011-12 season. Johnson was one of four captains on last year's Big Ten Championship team.
Big Ten Champions
Michigan State went 13-3 in conference play and earned its first outright Big Ten regular season title, winning the conference by two games over Penn State. MSU also shared the Big Ten Regular Season Championship in 1997 and 2005.
The Spartans have won at least 10 Big Ten games in nine straight seasons. It is tied for the longest active streak in the conference with Ohio State.
10-Straight Postseason Appearances
The Spartans qualified for their 10th-straight postseason, advancing to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. MSU made its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance, and eighth in the last nine seasons.
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]
Eight Consecutive 20-Win Seasons
Michigan State posted its eighth-straight 20-win season in 2010-11, going 27-6. The Spartans' 27 wins were the second most wins in program history (the 2004-05 team won 33). 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]
Leaders in Conference Play
Michigan State ended Big Ten play leading the conference in scoring defense, scoring margin, rebound margin, steals, turnovers forced, offensive rebounds and 3-point field goal percentage defense last season.
The Spartans led in scoring defense for the second straight season, the only two times in program history. Also, it was the sixth time that the Spartans led in steals and the first since 2005-06. In addition, MSU has led in 3-point field goal percentage defense in four of the last five seasons.
It is the fifth time that MSU has led in rebound margin, and the second time under Coach Merchant (2008-09). The +9.1 margin is the fourth largest in Big Ten history. Overall, the Spartans were ninth in the nation in rebound margin at +8.4, breaking the MSU single-season record.
Merchant Era Continues
During the offseason, the Michigan State athletics department and women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant agreed to make adjustments to her 5-year rolling contract. The agreement is mutually beneficial to both sides, providing security and continuity to the Big Ten Championship program.
Racking Up the Big Ten Honors
Michigan State collected three major postseason Big Ten awards, as senior Kalisha Keane was named Big Ten Player of the Year, junior Lykendra Johnson was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and head coach Suzy Merchant was Big Ten Coach of the Year. Keane was also first-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media, while Johnson, also a member of the all-defensive team, was first team by the media and second team by the coaches. Senior Brittney Thomas was an honorable mention selection on both lists. Keane was the team's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award recipient.
Over the past nine seasons, the Spartans have had 35 student-athletes earn All-Big Ten honors. MSU leads the conference over that span. Under Coach Merchant, MSU has had a league-best 15 All-Big Ten selections.
Going for Four-Straight
Lykendra Johnson is one of two returning players in the conference who have been All-Big Ten each of the last three seasons (Samantha Prahalis - OSU). Johnson earned first-team honors by the media, after finishing the year as one of three Big Ten players who averaged a double-double in conference play (13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds).
Overall, Johnson was second on the team in points (11.8), but led MSU for the second-straight season with 8.9 rebounds, good for fifth in the conference. She led the Big Ten with 2.4 steals and 4.0 offensive rebounds, while also leading the team and placing in the top-10 in the conference in blocks (1.3) and field goal percentage (48.3%).
In Big Ten games, MSU was +187 with her on the floor, but -49 when she was on the bench.
Among Spartan Greats
Lykendra Johnson enters her senior season among the program's leaders in many statistical categories, and has a chance to finish among the elite players in MSU history. Currently she is third all-time at MSU in offensive rebounds (304), sixth in blocks (105), eighth in rebounds (744), 16th in free throws made with 229, 18th with 46 3-point field goals and 19th with 167 steals. Johnson needs only 103 points to become the 22nd 1,000-point scorer in MSU history.
Last season, the Spartans set a new single-season record by making 221 3-point field goals, shattering the previous record of 176 (2004-05).
Twelve different MSU players made a 3-pointer in 2010-11. However, this offseason the NCAA moved the women's 3-point line back to the men's line of 20-feet, 9-inches.
Taylor Alton is the top long-distance threat returning in 2011-12. She led the team and was eighth in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage (36.9%). After joining the starting lineup for the final 15 games, Alton made 1.9 3-pointers a game, including seven in the two combined NCAA Tournament games.
The 2011-12 Spartans will have some large shoes to fill for the second-straight season with the graduation of three key players last year. They return 54.9% of minutes, including the loss of three starters. In terms of production, 54.2% of the points return, to go along with 63.8% of rebounds, 47.9% of assists, 46.4% of steals and 62.3% of blocks.
A major factor in the Big Ten success of the Spartans under Coach Merchant has been their play away from Breslin Center. In the four seasons under Merchant, MSU is 22-13 in road conference games. They are one of two schools with a winning road record (Ohio State is also 22-13).
MSU welcomes five talented freshmen to the 2011-12 roster.
A 6-3 center from Central Lake, Mich., Jasmine Hines joins the Spartans with a laundry list of high school accomplishments. Hines was named a high school All-American by PARADE Magazine, in addition to being Michigan's Miss Basketball, Michigan's Gatorade Player of the Year and the Associated Press Class D Player of the Year. She also broke the Michigan career scoring (2,989) and rebounding (1,667) records, after averaging over 29 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks as a senior.
A 5-7 guard from Chicago, Ill., Kiana Johnson will press for major minutes at the point guard position. A two-time all-state selection, including first-team honors as a senior, Johnson averaged 11.2 points and 4.9 assists last year. She was effective from long range, making 129 3-pointers over the last two season at over a 50% clip.
A 6-4 forward from Midland, Mich., Becca Mills will add size and versatility to the Spartan front court. Mills was the Associated Press Class A Player of the Year and finished third in the Michigan Miss Basketball voting. Midland Dow's all-time leading scorer (1,524) and rebounder (875), Mills averaged 22 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, two assists and two blocks as a senior.
A 5-11 freshman from Elkhart, Ind., Akyah Taylor is in the mix at the wing for the Spartans. Taylor led Elkhart Memorial in scoring all four seasons, leaving as the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,719 points. As a senior she earned first-team all-state honors, averaging 19.8 points and 9.9 rebounds.
A 5-10 guard from Lincolnshire, Ill., Anna Morrissey joins the Spartans as a preferred walk-on this fall. Morrissey has been a starter at Stevenson since her freshman season, and averaged 10 points, six rebounds and three assists. She is the daughter of former Spartan and nine-year NFL veteran Jim Morrissey.
Fans Continue to Pack the Breslin
For the past seven seasons, Michigan State has been one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. Last season marked the seventh straight season that the Spartans had been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 7,388 fans per game, which ranked ninth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. It set a new single-season attendance record, previously 6,787 in 2005-06, and tied for the highest nationally ranking (2006-07).
Michigan State had its first official sellout in program history vs. Michigan (Feb. 13) with a crowd of 14,797. It was the first sellout by a Big Ten school since Feb. 29, 2004 (Penn State), and just the ninth by a Big Ten school in their current home venue. With the sellout, the Spartans were the Big Ten Conference winner of the NCAA's Pack the House initiative.