Women's Basketball Opens Season Friday Against IUPUI
Spartans, Jaguars meet in first round of the Preseason WNIT.
Nov. 8, 2007
No. 17/18 MICHIGAN STATE (0-0) vs. IUPUI (0-0)
When: Friday, Nov. 9 7:30 p.m.
Where: Breslin Center East Lansing, Mich.
TV: No television coverage.
Radio: WVFN 730 AM and www.msuspartans.com (Rick Berkey: Play-by-Play)
Internet: Gametracker at msuspartans.com
MSU: Suzy Merchant (Central Michigan, 1991)
Overall: 210-120 (13th year)
At MSU: 0-0 (first year)
IUPUI: Shann Hart (Norfolk State, 1989)
Overall: 165-143 (12th year)
At IUPUI: 38-48 (fourth year)
SPARTANS HOST IUPUI IN FIRST ROUND OF THE PRESEASON WNIT
The No. 17/18 Michigan State women's basketball team opens the 2007-08 season with a home matchup against IUPUI Friday, Nov. 9 in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Breslin Center. MSU went 2-0 in the exhibition season with wins over Grand Valley State (72-42) and Lake Superior State (71-52).
This marks the first time in program history that the Spartans will compete in the Preseason WNIT. The event, which is in its 14th season, features 16 teams from 16 different conferences. The season-opening tournament will feature a new format in 2007, as it moves from single elimination to a three-game guarantee format. Nine of the 16 teams in the tournament are coming off postseason play.
Michigan State will face either Evansville or Marshall in the next round of the tournament Sunday in East Lansing (game time TBA; will be announced Friday night). Evansville hosts Marshall Friday at 6 p.m.
Suzy Merchant BEGINS FIRST SEASON IN EAST LANSING
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.
QUICK LOOK AT THE SPARTANS
MSU returns two starters and seven letterwinners from last season's team that went 24-9 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan set a Big Ten record last season with 145 blocked shots. She is the team's top returning scorer (12.5 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg). A preseason All-Big Ten selection, she was named second-team All-Big Ten last season and was tabbed the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
The Spartans lost 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, was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last year after averaging 10.4 ppg an 5.6 rpg.
The other returning starter, junior guard Mia Johnson, tore her ACL during summer workouts and is not expected back until the start of the Big Ten season. Johnson averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg last season, her first for the Green and White after transferring from Saint Louis University in 2005-06.
Seniors Courtney Davidson and Alisa Wulff and sophomores Mandy Piechowski and Takeya Fortner all return for MSU. Lauren Aitch, who received a medical redshirt last season due to a torn ACL, is back and healthy this season.
The Spartans will rely on a heralded freshman class for minutes this season. The class, ranked among the top 20 in the nation, features point guard Brittney Thomas and forwards Kalisha Keane, Cetera Washington and Taja Wilson.
A LOOK AT IUPUI
IUPUI went 14-16 in 2006-07, falling in the semifinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. The Jaguars went 7-7 in the conference, good for a fourth-place finish. In its only exhibition game, IUPUI defeated Ohio Legends, 71-62.
The Jaguars return Mid-Con first-team selection and Defensive Player of the Year Jernisha Cann, who averaged 13.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game last season. Cann had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the exhibition win.
Head coach Shann Hart, who enters her fourth year at the helm of the program, also added six heralded recruits to a lineup that returns three of five starters for the 2007-08 campaign.
MICHIGAN STATE-IUPUI SERIES HISTORY
This marks the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and IUPUI.
YOUNG SPARTANS LOOKING FOR HELP FROM FRESHMEN CLASS
With the losses of All-Big Ten guards Rene Haynes and Victoria Lucas-Perry to graduation, and Aisha Jefferson and Mia Johnson to injury, MSU is returning only one of its top five scorers from last season (Allyssa DeHaan). The young Spartans are returning just 25 percent of their points (536), 24 percent of their rebounds (323) and 24 percent of their minutes (1,595) from 2006-07.
QUICK PROGRAM NOTES
MSU has compiled four straight 20-win seasons (22 in 2003-04, 33 in 2004-05, 24 in 2005-06, 24 in 2006-07).
MSU's 24 wins in 2006-07 tied for the second-most wins in program history (record: 33 in 2004-05).
The Spartans have a combined 103-32 (.763) record the last four seasons. MSU has earned five consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, a school record. Michigan State is one of 11 schools in the country to advance to the NCAA Tournament Second Round the past four seasons.
MSU is 39-4 at home since 2004-05.
Michigan State has 27 wins over nationally-ranked opponents in the last six years.
A LOOK AT THE PRESEASON WNIT FORMAT
All games in the tournament are hosted by participating schools. The initial round of the event will involve eight sites hosted by participating institutions. The winner's bracket will look identical to past Preseason WNIT tournaments.
The eight first-round winners will continue on in traditional bracket play, with half of them hosting the other half in separate host sites. The winning teams will continue on, with separate host sites throughout the semifinals and championship. The two teams in the championship game will play four games in the tournament.
The eight teams who lose their first-round games will be regrouped into "consolation bracket quads", which are two four-team pools. One team in each pool will be selected to host the other three teams. Each team will play two games for a total of three in the tournament. These rounds will be called Consolation Rounds One and Two. Quarterfinal-Round Losers (from original bracket)
Of the four quarterfinal teams, two teams will be selected to host one of the other quarterfinal-round losers in a single game at separate sites. This game provides the third game for each of these schools. This round will be called Consolation Round Three.
The 2007 event will start the first Friday of the regular season, Nov. 9. The quarterfinals will be Nov. 11-13, with the semifinals occurring Nov. 14-15. The tournament championship is set for Sunday, Nov. 18. The consolation bracket quads will be played Nov. 16-17. Quarterfinal-round losers will play their final game Nov. 16 or Nov. 17, at separate sites.
A Look at the Complete Field for the Preseason WNIT (2006-07 Record)
Delaware (26-6) Delaware State (21-13) East Tennessee State (20-12) Evansville (19-12) IUPUI (14-16) LSU (30-8) Marshall (15-15) Maryland (28-6) Miami-OH (12-18) Michigan State (24-9) Notre Dame (20-12) Princeton (13-15) Radford (20-11) Samford (18-13) TCU (21-11) Western Kentucky (23-9)
JUNIOR FORWARD Aisha Jefferson OUT FOR THE SEASON WITH KNEE INJURY
Junior forward Aisha Jefferson has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and will miss the entire 2007-08 season, head coach Suzy Merchant announced Monday, Nov. 5 at her weekly press conference. Jefferson is scheduled to undergo ACL surgery, but the exact date has not been set. It is typically a four-to-six month recovery period following surgery. Jefferson suffered the injury while driving to the basket on a fastbreak in the first half of Sunday's exhibition game against Lake Superior State.
"Aisha will not be playing for us this year, which is pretty tough to handle," said Merchant, "but at the same time, it means that some freshmen are going to be getting some key minutes for us. (Aisha) does a lot for us not only talent-wise, but emotionally, she's our leader. It certainly is tough news to hear. Aisha is more than a player. To me, to the program and to the fans, she is what Michigan State women's basketball is all about. However, I do think we have some kids that can step up and will step up."
Jefferson, who earned All-Big Ten Freshman honors in 2005-06, improved her numbers as a sophomore, ranking third on the team with 10.4 ppg and 5.6 rpg to garner honorable mention all-conference accolades. She played in 67 games her first two seasons, including 44 starts, and averaged 8.5 ppg and 5.3 rpg. She scored in double-figures 20 times last season and collected four double-doubles. A natural leader, Jefferson was one of three captains named by Merchant at the beginning of the season.
"Aisha took the news hard, really hard," Merchant said. "I think that she was in the best shape of her life. She told me that she was the healthiest she's been in a long time. When I went out to see her (after the injury), she just told me, `Coach, it's done. My knee is gone.' It didn't look good when she did it. She's down, but she is a vivacious person that will energize us in a different role this year."
SPARTANS BIT WITH INJURY BUG
Unfortunately for Michigan State, Aisha Jefferson is not the only Spartan to get injured this young season.
During the first exhibition against Grand Valley State, sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan exited the game in the first half with a sprained left ankle. DeHaan did not play in the second exhibition against Lake Superior State, but is expected to be back for Friday's opener.
During fall workouts, freshman forward Taja Wilson suffered a stress reaction, but has been practicing full strength since mid-October.
Over the summer, junior guard Mia Johnson, a returning starter, tore the ACL in her right knee. She is expected to be back in the lineup by the start of Big Ten season.
Laura Hall, an experienced center who earned three letters, elected not to play her senior season due to a lingering foot injury.
Last year, Lauren Aitch had to sit out the entire season with torn ACL, but she is healthy this season and expected to make an impact in the Spartan starting lineup.
SPARTANS RANKED 17TH IN PRESEASON ASSOCIATED PRESS POLL, 18TH IN PRESEASON USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
Michigan State is ranked in both major preseason polls, coming in at 17th in the Associated Press poll and 18th in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll. It marks the fourth consecutive year the Spartans have been ranked in both preseason polls.
MSU is one of three Big Ten teams ranked in the Coaches' poll, 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'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.
In the AP poll, MSU is one just two Big Ten teams ranked, along with No. 16 Ohio State.
MSU is ranked in every major preseason poll, including CSTV.com (No. 16), Lindy's (No. 17), The Sporting News (No. 19) and Athlon Sports (No. 23).
SPARTANS PICKED SECOND BY MEDIA, FOURTH BY COACHES IN BIG TEN PRESEASON POLL
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 Oct. 28 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.
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.
BIG TEN PRESEASON COACHES POLL
1. Ohio State
4. Michigan State
8. Penn State
BIG TEN PRESEASON MEDIA POLL
1. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
7. Penn State
PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN COACHES TEAM
Lori Bjork, ILL, Jr., G
Allyssa DeHaan, MSU, So., C
Emily Fox, MINN, Jr., G
Marscilla Packer, OSU, Sr., G
Jolene Anderson, WIS, Sr., G
PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN MEDIA TEAM
Lori Bjork, ILL, Jr., G
Allyssa DeHaan, MSU, So., C
Star Allen, OSU, Jr., F
Marscilla Packer, OSU, Sr., G
Jolene Anderson, WIS, Sr., G
Allyssa DeHaan NAMED PRESEASON WOODEN AWARD CANDIDATE
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.
MERCHANT NAMES CAPTAINS
Prior to the season, Suzy Merchant named juniors Aisha Jefferson and Mia Johnson and senior Alisa Wulff to serve as captains for the 2007-08 season. It marks the first time the program has had all new captains since the 2002-03 season.
FANS KEEP ON COMING
Michigan State finished ninth in the nation in attendance in 2006-07, averaging 6,737 fans per game. It marks the second straight season MSU has finished in the top 10 nationally in attendance. The program has been ranked in the top 20 nationally in attendance the past five seasons, led by a school-record 6,797 average in 2005-06.
The attendance for Sunday's exhibition game against Lake Superior State was 5,018, the second-highest exhibition crowd in school history. The Spartans averaged 4,885 fans in the two exhibition games, the highest exhibition average in program history.
For the first time in school history, Michigan State hosted the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds at the Breslin Center in 2007. Thanks to the nation's second-largest crowd during the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament's Second Round, East Lansing led all eight First- and Second-Round sites with a total 21,340 fans passing through the turnstiles during the three sessions of the four-day event. The Breslin Center crowd of 8,056 on March 20 was the second largest in the country.
MICHIGAN STATE IN SEASON OPENERS
Michigan State has won its last eight season openers, with all of them coming in the friendly confines of the Breslin Center. In its 35-year history, the Spartans are 23-15 all-time in season openers.
MSU COACHING DEBUTS
Suzy Merchant, the fifth women's basketball coach in program history, is looking to become the third coach at MSU to win her first game in her Spartan debut.
Here's how Michigan State's four previous head coaches fared in their first game:
Mikki Baile - Jan. 30, 1973 at Eastern Michigan (L, 38-31)
Dominic Marino - Jan. 8, 1976 at Oakland (W, 71-39)
Karen Langeland - Dec. 3, 1976 at Grand Valley State (L, 54-53)
Joanne P. McCallie - Nov. 17, 2000 vs. Arkansas State (W, 76-60)
SECOND EXHIBITION RECAP: MICHIGAN STATE 71, LAKE SUPERIOR STATE 52
Michigan State wrapped up its exhibition season with a 71-52 victory over Lake Superior State Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Breslin Center. Senior Courtney Davidson had her best game as a Spartan, scoring 19 points with four 3-pointers, while freshman Kalisha Keane collected a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
The game was tied at halftime at 26, but for the second straight game, the Spartans dominated the second half. In Thursday's win over Grand Valley State, the Spartans outscored GVSU 42-17 in the second half. On Sunday, MSU outscored the Lakers by 19 points in the second half, 45-26, en route to the victory.
The Spartans shot 58 percent from the floor in the second half while limiting the Lakers to 26 percent shooting. Overall, the Spartans forced 21 turnovers and held LSSU to 30 percent shooting for the game.
Davidson's career high in a regular-season game is nine points, but Sunday she more than doubled that effort with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting. She was 4-for-4 from 3-point range and 3-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Keane was 8-for-12 from the field, including one 3-pointer, and 4-of-6 from the line in scoring 21 points.
Lauren Aitch nearly collected a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds on 5-for-11 shooting. In two exhibition games, Aitch averaged 10 rebounds.
FIRST EXHIBITION RECAP: MICHIGAN STATE 72, GRAND VALLEY STATE 42
The Suzy Merchant Era got off to a good start as the Michigan State women's basketball team won its first game under its new coach, 72-42, over Grand Valley State Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Breslin Center. Junior Aisha Jefferson led all players in the exhibition contest with 24 points and the Spartans outscored the visiting Lakers by 25 points in the second half.
MSU freshmen Kalisha Keane and Cetera Washington added 12 and nine points, respectively, in their Spartan debuts. Sophomore Lauren Aitch grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Grand Valley State was led by Taylor Silas' 14 points.
Jefferson set the tone early, scoring five points in the first two minutes to help MSU to an early 7-0 lead. Michigan State, ranked 18th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, would lead by as many as nine in the opening minutes before Grand Valley State pulled to within 17-15 at the nine-minute mark.
Lay-ups by Keane and Jefferson would put Michigan State up 30-20 with 2:09 remaining in the first stanza before the Lakers scored five straight points to pull within 30-25 at intermission.
MSU would pull away early in the second half, as lay-ups by Jefferson and Washington gave the Spartans a 41-25 lead with 14:37 remaining. Michigan State took a 20-point lead a minute later and would lead by as many as 26 when a three-point play by freshman Taja Wilson gave the Spartans a 59-33 lead with 7:14 remaining.
The Spartans clamped down on defense in the second half, holding the Lakers to 17 points on 24 percent shooting. MSU shot 59 percent in the second half and scored 26 points in the paint.
Jefferson finished 10-for-16 from the field and made all four of her free throws. She grabbed six rebounds and had six steals.