Nov. 13, 2008
Michigan State Spartans (0-0) vs.
Niagara Purple Eagles (0-0)
Date: Friday, Nov. 14
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Arena: Breslin Center
Radio: WVFN 730 AM - Rick Berkey (play-by-play)
Internet: Live Stats and Audio at www.msuspartans.com
In Season Openers
Michigan State has won its last nine season openers - all of which at the Breslin Center - including a 65-35 win over IUPUI in Suzy Merchant's debut last season. In those nine games, MSU has averaged a 21.6 point margin of victory. All-time, Spartans are 24-12 in season openers and are 29-7 in their home opener.
Coach Merchant has won her last seven season openers dating back to her time at Eastern Michigan.
Niagara was picked ninth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Preseason Coaches Poll, after finishing last season 8-22 overall and 6-12 in the MAAC.
The Purple Eagles welcome back nine letterwinners, but also have to blend in eight newcomers to mix. Three players who started 16 games or more return this season, led by junior guard Jennifer McNamee. McNamee was selected to the Preseason All-MAAC Third Team. McNamee, the team's returning leading scorer, averaged 10.2 points per game last season, and was fifth in the conference with 64 3-pointers. Senior guard Erika Harris was third on the team in points with 9.4, second with 2.9 assists and fourth with 4.5 rebounds. Sophomore Liz Flooks, a MAAC All-Rookie Team selection, was fourth in points (7.4), and also chipped in 3.6 rebounds.
Against the Purple Eagles
Michigan State and Niagara will face each other for the first time.
MSU controlled two GLIAC schools during the exhibition portion of its schedule. On Thursday, Nov. 6, the Spartans defeated Saginaw Valley State, 97-32, then came back to beat Grand Valley State, 84-44, on Sunday, Nov. 9. The four newcomers - redshirt freshman Lykendra Johnson, and true freshmen Taylor Alton, Porsche Poole and Courtney Schiffauer - led the way against SVSU, combining for 50 points, 23 rebounds and eight steals. Against GVSU, redshirt junior Aisha Jefferson led the way with 16 points, while classmate Lauren Aitch and sophomore Cetera Washington chipped in 15 apiece.
Michigan State had great balance during the exhibition schedule. Five Spartans averaged double-figure points and eight had over 6.5 per game. In addition, eight Spartans averaged over 4.5 rebounds. Johnson led the way with 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, while Jefferson averaged 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. MSU shot 56.6% (69-of-122), while holding their two opponents to 24.3% (28-of -115). The Spartans were also 41.7% (5-of-12) from 3-point range and 74.5% (38-of-51) from the foul line. MSU outrebounded SVSU and GVSU by a 96-57 margin. Defensively, they forced 57 turnovers, blocked 17 shots and posted 29 steals.
The Spartans were picked to finish third in the Big Ten this season by both the coaches and media in the preseason polls, released at Big Ten Basketball Media Day. MSU also received votes in both the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and AP polls.
Preseason Laurels for DeHaan
Junior center Allyssa DeHaan was one of five student-athletes selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team at this season's media day, joining Preseason Player of the Year Jantel Lavender of Ohio State, Jenna Smith of Illinois, Emily Fox of Minnesota and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton of Purdue.
DeHaan was also named to two national watch lists. She was one of 30 collegiate student-athletes to be named a candidate for the prestigious Women's Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year trophy. In addition, DeHaan was one of 25 student-athletes to be named to the 2008-09 preseason "Wade Watch" list. The list, released by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA), highlights the preseason candidates for the State Farm Wade Trophy Division I Player of the Year. DeHaan and Lavender were the only two Big Ten student-athletes recognized.
Head Coach Suzy Merchant named redshirt senior Mia Johnson, redshirt junior Aisha Jefferson and junior Mandy Piechowski as the team's captains for the 2008-09 season. Johnson and Jefferson remain captains for the second-straight season.