Nov. 13, 2013
The No. 19/20 Michigan State women's basketball team begins a four-game homestand on Thursday night hosting Canisius (1-0) at 7 p.m. The Spartans (0-1), who have won 13 of their last 14 home openers, look to bounce back after Monday's opening loss at No. 6 Notre Dame. The game will be available on the Big Ten Digital Network on Spartan All-Access (subscription necessary).
The Golden Griffins were picked sixth in the MAAC preseason poll, after posting a 12-19 record last season, including an 8-10 conference mark. Canisius opened the 2013-14 season with a 77-67 victory over Detroit on Nov. 8. Jamie Ruttle, a preseason third-team All-MAAC selection, led the Golden Griffins in the opener with 19 points, as Canisius made 11 3-pointers.
Former Spartan Cetera Washington is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Golden Griffins. Washington was a four-year letterwinner (2007-11) and spent the last two seasons as MSU's graduate assistant.
AGAINST THE GOLDEN GRIFFINS
Michigan State and Canisius will be meeting for the first time.
IN HOME OPENERS
All-time, the Spartans are 33-8 in home openers, and have won 13 of their last 14. Michigan State is 5-1 under head coach Suzy Merchant in its first game at Breslin Center. Coach Merchant has won 11 of her last 12 home openers dating back to her time at Eastern Michigan.
LAST TIME OUT (No. 6/7 Notre Dame 81, No. 19/18 MSU 62)
The 2013-14 season started off on a down note, as the No. 19/18 Spartans fell 81-62 at No. 6/7 Notre Dame on Monday night. Four Spartans scored in double-figures, but the Irish (2-0) controlled the glass and pulled away late. Becca Mills led the offensive effort with 15 points, on 7-for-13 shooting, and nine rebounds in a career-high 39 minutes. Annalise Pickrel posted her first career double-double with 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Pickrel also had a game-high five assists, which was a career high. Tori Jankoska chipped in 14 points off the bench, tying for the eighth-most points in a Spartan debut.
The Spartans led early, holding a 14-11 lead in the first six minutes, but the Irish followed with a 12-2 run over the next four minutes to take control. Notre Dame would push the lead to double-digits at the half, leading 36-24. Notre Dame jumped out early in the second half, growing its lead to as many as 21 (52-31) in the first five and a half minutes. The Spartans did not give in, getting within 11 on a couple occasions, but that was as close as they could get.
IN THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER
The Spartans are 93-35 (72.7%) all-time in the month of November. Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 32-8 (80.0%) in November, with five of the eight losses coming against top-10 opponents. The Spartans had an eight-game winning streak in November snapped with Monday's loss at Notre Dame. At home, the Spartans are 22-1 in November under Coach Merchant.
Michigan State opened the season No. 18 nationally in the preseason USA Today coaches poll and No. 20 in the preseason Associated Press poll. It is MSU's highest preseason ranking since beginning the 2009-10 season at No. 10 in both rankings. The Spartans are currently No. 19 in the AP and No. 20 USA Today polls.
Six of MSU's 2013-14 opponents were also ranked preseason - Notre Dame (6/7), Nebraska (17/12), Penn State (13/15), Dayton (14/16), Purdue (18/23), Oklahoma State (21/24). In addition, Florida State, Iowa and Minnesota are receiving votes in one of the two polls.
PRESEASON BIG TEN OUTLOOK
Michigan State was selected third in both the coaches and media preseason Big Ten polls, released prior to Big Ten Basketball Media Day on Oct. 31. Nebraska was selected as the preseason favorite by both, with Penn State holding the second spot.
Senior Klarissa Bell, a third-team All-Big Ten selection last season, was named to the five-member preseason All-Big Ten team, as voted by the coaches. She is the first Spartan named to the team since Lykendra Johnson in 2011. Bell was joined on the team by preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Maggie Lucas of Penn State, Minnesota's Rachel Banham, Nebraska's Jordan Hooper and Purdue's Courtney Moses.
Seniors Klarissa Bell and Annalise Pickrel will have the honor of captains for the 2013-14 season. Bell will hold the position for the second-straight season.
Last season, Michigan State went 25-9 marking the 10th-straight season that the Spartans have won at least 20 games. The streak is the longest active streak in the Big Ten (Penn State is second with three-in-a-row). Entering this season, MSU is one of 11 teams in the nation to have won at least 20 games in each of the last 10 seasons - Baylor, Bowling Green, Connecticut, Duke, Green Bay, Marist, Middle Tennessee State, Stanford, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
The Spartans' 25 wins were the third-most in program history (2004-05 - 33 wins, 2010-11 - 27 wins).
ANOTHER STREAK EXTENDED
The Spartans finished the Big Ten season at 10-6 and in a tie for third place last season. Michigan State has now won at least 10 Big Ten games in 11-straight seasons. It is the longest active streak in the Big Ten (with Penn State second at three). MSU is 127-55 (69.8%) in conference play over the last 11 seasons, trailing only Ohio State (136-46; 74.7%) in wins.
The Spartans have now finished third or better in the conference in each of the last five seasons - winning the title in 2010-11, and placing second in 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2011-12. In all, MSU has finished no worse than third place in eight of the last nine years.
During Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State has a 69-33 (67.6%) Big Ten record. The win total is second in the conference over that span (Ohio State-71), while her winning percentage is 12th-best in the 32-year history of the Big Ten Conference. More recently, MSU has won 44 of its last 59 Big Ten regular season games (74.6%).
FIVE CONSECUTIVE INVITATIONS TO THE BIG DANCE
Michigan State made its fifth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012-13, and its 10th in the last 11 years. Overall, the Spartans qualified for their 12th straight postseason. The five appearances in a row tie the longest stretch in program history. MSU has won at least one game in eight of its last nine NCAA Tournament trips.
MSU is one of 19 schools in the country (and one of only two in the Big Ten) to make the NCAA Tournament the last five seasons - Baylor, Connecticut, DePaul, Duke, Fresno State, Georgia, Gonzaga, Green Bay, Iowa, Iowa State, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, South Dakota State, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.
In Coach Merchant's first six-plus seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 140-63 (69.0%). Her winning percentage is the 10th-best all-time among Big Ten coaches, and second among active conference coaches. Entering the year, her 140 wins were the fourth-most by a Big Ten coach in their first six seasons. During her span, the 140 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (149). Merchant has won at least 20 games in nine-straight seasons, not including the shortened 2006-07 season due to her maternity leave. In her career, she has 10 20-win seasons.
In conference games, she is 69-33 (67.6%), ranking her 12th all-time in career winning percentage in Big Ten games and second among active coaches. During her Spartan career, her 69 conference wins are second to only Ohio State (71).
Last season was Suzy Merchant's sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament, posting a 5-6 record. She has guided the Spartans to the last five tournaments, advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2009 and the second round in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Merchant ties Joanne P. McCallie for the most NCAA appearances as a MSU head coach (five). Over the last five NCAA Tournaments, her five wins are second among Big Ten schools (Purdue has six). Merchant also took Eastern Michigan to the tournament in 2004.
AGAINST THE NATION'S BEST
Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 17-25 against ranked teams, including a 5-9 record against top-10 teams. When MSU is also ranked, the Spartans are 7-12 in matchups with fellow ranked teams. No. 6/7 Notre Dame was MSU's highest ranked opponent since traveling to No. 2 Baylor on Nov. 19, 2010.
Monday was the first of two games against ranked opponents in the opening week of the season (MSU host No. 23/21 Dayton on Sunday). Michigan State is one of four teams in the nation to play two ranked teams in the first week (on or before Nov. 17), joining Alabama, Connecticut and UCLA.
In head coach Suzy Merchant's first six seasons at Michigan State, a total of 20 Spartans have earned All-Big Ten honors, leading the conference in that span. In addition, MSU has had five major award winners, four Big Ten All-Freshman team recipients and four Big Ten All-Defensive team honorees.
Last season, Klarissa Bell was a third-team All-Big Ten choice by the coaches, while Bell, Jasmine Thomas and Kiana Johnson were honorable mention selections by the media.
BIG TEN LEADERS
Michigan State led the Big Ten in scoring defense (52.1 points allowed), rebound margin (+6.9) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.2%) last season, and were second in field goal percentage defense (36.6%), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.0), fewest turnovers (14.0) and offensive rebounds (13.2). Among NCAA leaders, MSU was 13th in points allowed and 21st in rebound margin.
The Spartans' 52.1 points per game allowed last season led the Big Ten and was 13th in the nation. The mark was the third lowest in program history, and the lowest since the first two seasons of Spartan women's basketball - 1973-74 (38.4) and 1972-73 (38.9).
Michigan State held 18 teams under 50 points, the most in the single season (1973-74 team did it 14 times). The Spartans also held six opponents below 40 points last season, second all-time behind the 1973-74 team (nine times). Entering last season, the Spartans had only held 32 opponents under 40 points in the first 1,124 games of the program.
In total, the Spartans held 30 of their 34 opponents below their scoring average last season.
Last season, Michigan State finished second in the Big Ten in points allowed in conference games with 58.8 points. The Spartans had previously led the Big Ten in conference games in points allowed for the last three seasons.
CRASHING THE BOARDS
Michigan State led the Big Ten in rebounds margin for the third-straight season, and for the fourth time in the last five years, last season. The Spartans have been top-40 in the country in rebound margin each of the last six seasons, getting as low as ninth nationally in 2010-11.
MSU has out-rebounded 76 of its last 92 opponents (82.6%), including 28 of the 35 teams last season.
The Spartans led the Big Ten in conference games this season with a +6.3 margin. MSU has led the league in three of the last five seasons in conference games only.
RINGING THE BELL FOR THE LAST TIME
Patience and progression have been two common words to describe Klarissa Bell's playing career at Michigan State. Growing up in East Lansing and being named Michigan's Miss Basketball as a high school senior, she came to MSU with high expectations. However, through her first 48 games as a Spartan, she struggled to find a role and a spot on the floor. Bell averaged just 2.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.6 assists in 10.2 minutes during that time. However, Merchant inserted her into the starting lineup on Jan. 29, 2012 vs. Penn State and she has started every game since.
As a starter, Bell has helped Michigan State to a 33-13 record, while averaging 9.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 34.2 minutes.
Each season, Bell has seen progression in her stat lines, including averaging career highs of 10.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks as a junior. Her points and rebounds led the team, while her blocks were second, and her assists and steals were third. Because of a shortened bench, Bell was relied upon to play extended minutes, ranking fourth on the MSU single-season list in minutes (1,196) and sixth in minutes per game (35.2). Her play earned her third-team All-Big Ten honors, and placed her on the coaches' preseason All-Big Ten team.
The Spartans' success last season was weighed heavily based upon Bell's play. In Michigan State's 25 wins, she averaged 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and shot 45.1% from the field, while in the nine losses, she scored only 6.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and shot just 29.5%.
PICK AND POP
Senior Annalise Pickrel made a huge breakthrough last year in her junior season. After averaging 3.3 and 2.5 points in her first two seasons, Pickrel increased her scoring output to 9.3 points per game, which tied for third on the team. Her +6.8 point increase ranked third in the Big Ten last season.
Pickrel began the 2013-14 on a high note, posting her first career double-double (11 points and 12 rebounds), while also setting career highs with 12 rebounds and five assists, both team highs.
Her greatest asset last season was her production from the 3-point line. Leading the team in both categories, Pickrel ranked ninth in the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage (36.7%) and 3-point field goals made per game (1.8) last season. Pickrel made a career-high 65 3-pointers, which is the seventh most in a Spartan single season. Entering the year, she was just 19-for-63 (30.2%) from the 3-point arc in her first two seasons at MSU.
Pickrel is currently 12th in Spartan history with 85 3-point field goals made, while ranking eighth with a career 34.8% 3-point field goal percentage.
TAKING CARE OF THE ROCK
Junior Kiana Johnson has orchestrated the Spartan offense through her first two seasons in green and white. Johnson has led MSU in assists in each of her first two seasons, and ranks sixth on the Spartan career list with 4.1 assists per game. Johnson led MSU in assists in 13 of the last 20 games last season. She has been equally careful with the ball, posting a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.78 (237:133), which is second in the MSU record books.
An honorable mention All-Big Ten choice last season, Johnson has also been effective scoring the ball, averaging 9.3 points as a sophomore, tying for third on the team. She led MSU in free throw percentage (81.6%) and was second in 3-point field goal percentage (33.0%).
Defensively, Johnson led MSU with 1.9 steals last season, and enters the year fifth on the MSU career steals per game list at 1.9.
HOLDING DOWN THE POST
Early in the 2013-14 season, junior Becca Mills is going to be asked to fill a lot of minutes in the post due to some early season injuries. Head coach Suzy Merchant has praised Mills' offseason work ethic and early season effort. In her first two seasons, Mills has totaled 552 points (8.2 points per game), so she is accustomed to shouldering the expectations. Over her final 11 games last season, she scored in double figures in seven games and averaged 9.7 points.
Mills opened the season with a team-best 15 points at Notre Dame, while adding nine rebounds, in a career-best 39 minutes.
Junior Jasmine Hines came to East Lansing as Michigan's high school career points and rebounds record holder, but her minutes have been limited over her first two seasons at Michigan State. However in those minutes, her production has been effective, averaging 6.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in only 14.2 minutes. Hines has led MSU in field goal percentage in each of her first two seasons.
Freshman Tori Jankoska came to Michigan State with a laundry list of high school accolades, highlighted by being named a PARADE High School All-American, Michigan's Miss Basketball and Michigan's Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year. She shattered Freeland's career scoring record, totaling 2,333 points, while averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 3.6 steals in her career. As a senior, she averaged 30.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 4.8 steals.
Jankoska did not seem to be overwhelmed with the transition to collegiate basketball, leading the Spartans in scoring in the two exhibition games with 20.0 points per game in 30.5 minutes off the bench. She shot 58.3% from the field, including 6-for-13 (46.2%) from the 3-point line. In her debut, Jankoska poured in 27 points vs. Ferris State.
In her official Spartan debut, Jankoska scored 14 points, 10 of which were in the second half, at Notre Dame. Her point total tied for the eighth most in a Spartan freshman debut.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK(S)
Redshirt freshmen Branndais Agee and Aerial Powers return from season-ending injuries. Agee, a high school All-American, played in only five games last season, averaging 2.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 13.2 minutes, before tearing her right ACL. Powers, who was a top-100 recruit and a two-time Michigan AP Class B Player of the Year, missed the entire season after tearing the Achilles tendon in her left ankle during preseason practice.
Both players are expected to be major contributors this season. Powers started both exhibition games, and averaged 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 steals in 22.5 minutes. She was also able to get to the line 13 times. Meanwhile Agee played 15.0 minutes per game off the bench, averaging 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
In the opener at Notre Dame, Powers started but battled foul trouble to total four points and four assists in 18 minutes. Agee contributed four points in eight minutes off the bench.
THREE TIMES A CHARM
Michigan State suits up three of the last four Michigan's Miss Basketball this season - Klarissa Bell (2010), Jasmine Hines (2011) and Tori Jankoska (2013).
Michigan State welcomes back five of its top-six scorers from last season, including leading scorer and rebounder Klarissa Bell. In all, the Spartans return 71.6% of their scoring, 69.1% of their rebounds, 59.5% of their assists, 61.5% of their assists and 76.3% of their blocks from last year's squad. MSU's 71.6% scoring return is fourth in the conference, trailing Wisconsin (88.9%), Minnesota (80.5%) and Nebraska (73.4%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 81 of their last 82 games (98.8%) when leading with five minutes left, including a 25-0 record in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 123-5 (96.1%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
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 57-4 (93.4%), including winning their last 39 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 110-10 (91.7%).
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
In Coach Merchant's six seasons, the Spartans are 46-14 (76.7%) following a loss, including a 8-1 record last season.
ALL ABOUT THE 3-POINT LINE
Michigan State had success both offensively and defensively behind the 3-point arc last season. MSU led the Big Ten in 3-point field goal percentage defense (28.2%), while allowing only 138 3-pointers (4.1 per game), a conference low and top-25 in the nation. On the flip side, the Spartans made 179 3-pointers last season, the third most in a MSU single season.
The 2013-14 basketball season is the Spartans' 25th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 250-84 (.749) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 44 of its last 50 games (.880).
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
The Spartans ended their home schedule last season ranked 10th in the nation and second in the Big Ten with 6,352 fans per game. It marked the ninth-straight season that the Spartans have been among the nation's top-15 in attendance, and the third consecutive year their have been in the top-10.
MORE TIME, MORE SUCCESS
Michigan State is 17-2 in overtime games over the last 11 seasons in overtime games. The Spartans had won 15 straight before a loss to Illinois on Jan. 26, 2012.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State has played on Nov. 14 on only one other occasion. The Spartans defeated Niagara 116-50 in the 2008 season opener.
SUZY MERCHANT RADIO SHOW
The Suzy Merchant Radio Show will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 3. The show, typically held on Wednesdays if no conflicts, is held 12-1 p.m. at Reno's East on Abbott Road. It can be heard locally on WVFN 730AM or at SpartanSportsNetwork.com. This season shows will be Dec. 3 (Tues.), Dec 11, Jan. 2 (Thurs.), Jan. 8, Jan. 15, Jan. 22, Jan. 29, Feb. 4 (Tues.), Feb. 12, Feb. 19, Feb. 26 and March 4 (Tues.).