Nov. 10, 2011
Villanova returns three starters and eight letterwinners from last year's team that went 12-19 overall and 3-13 in conference play. The Wildcats were picked to finish 13th in the BIG EAST preseason poll. Villanova returns 90.0 percent of its scoring, led by junior Laura Sweeney, who led the team with 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Senior Lindsay Kimmel was second on the team with 10.2 points, making a team-high 81 3-point field goals. Sophomore Devon Kane tallied a team-best 73 assists.
Iona finished last season 11-20 overall and went 7-11 in MAAC play. The Gaels were picked fifth in the MAAC preseason poll. Senior Kristina Ford was an preseason first-team All-MAAC selection, after earning third team honors last year. Ford led the Gaels and was top-10 in the league in points (12.0) and rebounds (6.2).
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA A&T
North Carolina A&T finished second in the MEAC last season, after going 10-6 in conference play and 15-14 overall. The Aggies return only five letterwinners, including leading scorer JaQuayla Berry. Berry, who was a preseason all-conference selection, averaged 14.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 steals, good for third in the nation.
AGAINST THE OPPOSITION
Michigan State won its only previous meeting with Friday's opponent, Villanova. The Spartans topped the Wildcats, 74-62 on March 15, 2000 in East Lansing. MSU is 2-0 against Iona, winning in New Rochelle (91-68) on Dec. 30, 1985, and posting a win at Breslin Center (85-51) on Dec. 12, 2010. Michigan State and North Carolina A&T have never met.
Michigan State dominated Lake Superior State and Grand Valley State in its two exhibition games. On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Spartans topped LSSU, 94-31, behind two long runs - a 33-1 spurt over the first 13:49 and a 36-5 run in the second half. Taylor Alton scored 13 points and Annalise Pickrel added 12, while Kiana Johnson dished out 11 assists in her first game in green and white. On Sunday, Nov. 6, the Spartans again opened with a quick run and cruised to a 75-23 win over GVSU. MSU began the game on a 19-1 run over the first 10 minutes and closed the game on a 20-0 run over the final 10 minutes, while also holding the Lakers without a field goal in the first half (0-for-26). Becca Mills led the Spartans with 17 points, while Alton made all four 3-pointers for 12 points. Madison Williams led on the boards with 11 rebounds and five blocks.
Combined, MSU allowed only 15 first half points, and held the opponents to 17.0% shooting for the game. Alton and Mills paced the Spartans with 12.5 points per game, while Pickrel added 8.5. Williams grabbed 9.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks, while playing 17.0 minutes a game.K. Johnson dished out 15 assists to only three turnovers.
All-time, the Spartans are 26-13 in season openers, but only 1-7 when the opener is on a neutral court. Coach Merchant is 3-1 in season openers at MSU, and has won nine of her last 10, including her time at Eastern Michigan.
Three Spartans have played in each of the last three openers, and have all posted impressive statistics. Redshirt junior Courtney Schiffauer scored 21 points in each of the 2008 and 2009 openers, and is averaging 15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 23.3 minutes in those three games. Senior Porsche Poole has reached double-figures in all three (10.7 points per game), and has tallied only 14 double-digit efforts in her other 86 games at MSU. Finally, redshirt senior Lykendra Johnson is avergaing 9.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals in only 17 minutes a game. Junior Jasmine Thomas and redshirt sophomore Kelsey Smith each tallied 10 points in last year's opener, while freshman Annalise Pickrel posted seven points and six rebounds.
The Spartans' opener on Nov. 11, marks the second earliest calendar start. The 2007-08 season began on Nov. 9.
IN THE EMPIRE STATE
Michigan State has played just twice since 1979 in the state of New York. MSU is 2-5 all-time in the state. The Spartans last visited the state of New York on Dec. 17, 2008 when they lost at St. Bonaventure, 63-52. Michigan State have once played at Iona, beating the Gaels, 91-68 on Dec. 30, 1985. Previously MSU traveled to Flushing, N.Y. for the 1977 and 1979 Queens College Tournament.
IN REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENTS
Michigan State is 73-40 all-time in regular season tournaments. The Spartans are 18-4 over the last eight seasons, including winning eight-straight games. MSU went 2-0 at the UCF Thanksgiving Tournament last season.
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. It is the seventh time in the last eight seasons that the Spartans have been ranked preseason.
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.
In head coach Suzy Merchant's tenure, when two numbers on the scoreboard were achieved it typically has been a sign of a MSU win. When the Spartans have scored at least 70 points, their record is 41-4 (91.1%), including winning their last 24 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 72-8 (90.0%).
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. MSU has won 23 of its last 27 Big Ten regular season games over the past two seasons.
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. MSU is 106-44 (70.7%) in conference play over the last nine seasons.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Michigan State led the Big Ten in rebound margin, offensive rebounds and both rebound percentage categories. MSU was +8-4 in rebound margin, which was also ninth in the nation and broke the school's single-season record. The Spartans also topped the league with 15.5 offensive rebounds a game, which tied the previous single-season record (2005-06). MSU has out-rebounded 23 of its last 26 opponents.
CRASHING THE BOARDS - LJ EDITION
Senior Lykendra Johnson moved into the top-10 on the MSU career rebounding list last season and is currently eighth with 744 rebounds. In terms of offensive rebounds, she is at an even quicker pace up the Spartan all-time charts. Since the stat began being recorded in 1986-87, Johnson has the third most offensive rebounds all-time (304) and her 3.1 a game average is second to Liz Shimek (3.4). Last season, she set a new single-season offensive rebound record with 133, while leading the conference.
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.
In the exhibition games, the Spartans went 16-for-46 (34.8%) from behind the arc, with eight different players knocking down a trey. Alton led the MSU attack, going 7-for-10, including hitting all four attempts in the last game against Grand Valley.
A WINNING START
Head coach Suzy Merchant, who won the most games by a Spartan coach over their first four seasons, is 95-41 (.699) since her arrival prior to the 2007-08 season. All-time, Merchant is 296-161 (.648) in her 16 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98).
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 1-0 all-time on Nov. 11, beating Evansville (73-53) in 2007. The Spartans have never played on Nov. 12.