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Merchant Returns to Eastern Michigan for the First Time

Head coach Suzy Merchant spent nine seasons roaming the sidelines at the Convocation Center, and returns Thursday for the first time since 2007.

Nov. 14, 2012

Michigan State (1-0) vs. Eastern Michigan (1-0)
 Date | Time Thursday, Nov. 15 | 7 p.m.
 Location Ypsilanti, Mich. | Convocation Center (8,754)
 Televison none
 Internet Coverage Live Video (Subscription)
Live Stats
 Radio WJIM 1240AM | Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Radio (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App: iPhone/iPad | Android
 Game Notes Michigan State | Eastern Michigan
 Statistics Michigan State | Eastern Michigan
 Video Suzy Merchant Show - Episode 2
Suzy Merchant Weekly Press Conference
 Social Media @MSU_WBasketball   |  Facebook

The Eagles opened the season on Sunday with a 50-47 victory over Northeastern. Eastern Michigan overcame a 17-point second half deficit to win head coach Tory Verdi's coaching debut. Miranda Tate led EMU with 23 points and seven rebounds. The Eagles were 8-for-17 (47.1%) from 3-point range, and just 9-for-40 (22.5%) on 2-point shots.

EMU was picked third in the MAC West Division and junior Natachia Watkins was selected to the Preseason All-MAC team. The Eagles return nine letterwinners and three starters from last year's team that went 23-9 overall and qualified for the NCAA Tournament after winning the MAC Tournament title.

Michigan State leads the all-time series 16-3 against Eastern Michigan, and has produced wins in its last four trips to Ypsilanti. The Spartans last trip to Ypsilanti was Dec. 10, 1994. MSU has won 13 of the last 14 meetings overall, with the lone loss occuring when a Suzy Merchant-led Eagle team beat Michigan State 66-59 on Dec. 3, 2000 at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. The two schools played last year for the first time in eight seasons, as the Spartans prevailed in overtime 60-59.

LAST MEETING (MSU 60, Eastern Michigan 59, OT - Dec. 3, 2011)
After a stagnant first 28 minutes, the Spartans picked up the intensity down the stretch, erasing a 14-point deficit to force overtime and eventually hold on to beat Eastern Michigan, 60-59 at the Breslin Center. Jasmine Thomas scored MSU's final five points in the last 31 seconds of regulation, including a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left, to bring the game to extra time. Lykendra Johnson posted her third double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Thomas also had 13 points and four steals, while Kiana Johnson chipped in 10 points, four assists and three steals.

The Spartans trailed 42-28 with 11:50 to go in regulation, but after a media timeout, MSU ran off seven-straight points to get within seven. The margin remained in that range, as Eastern Michigan held a 50-44 lead with 1:44 to go. L. Johnson was fouled on an offensive rebound putback with 1:19 left, making the first but missing the second. Thomas grabbed another offensive board, setting up a K. Johnson layup to move the score to 50-47. A defensive stop on one end and a streaking layup by Thomas on the other end, brought the score to 50-49 with 31 seconds left. A quick foul put Tavelyn James to the line, who made both, setting up Thomas' dramatics. With the clock winding down, she took the ball on the wing, deep behind the line, and drilled a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left. In overtime, the two teams matched baskets early but a layup by K. Johnson and two free throws by L. Johnson gave the Spartans a 60-57 lead with 1:26 left. MSU withheld a last ditch attempt by James and the Eagles, holding on for a 60-59 victory.

Michigan State has had great success against other collegiate programs in the state of Michigan over the past 10 seasons. Since the beginning of the 2002-03 season, the Spartans are 34-1 (.971) against in-state rivals, including a 19-1 (.950) mark under Coach Merchant. All-time, Michigan State is 167-56 (.749) against other Michigan schools.

Head coach Suzy Merchant returns to Eastern Michigan for the first time since leaving EMU to become Michigan State's head coach in 2007. Merchant is the Eagles' all-time winningiest coach, compiling a 147-91 record in her nine years in Ypsilanti (1998-2007). She guided them to three 20-win seasons, three postseason berths and two MAC West Division championships. All-time, Merchant is 77-29 in the Convocation Center, but has won 39 of her last 44 games.

The Spartans are 88-34 (72.1%) all-time in the month of November. Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 27-7 (79.4%) in November, with four of the seven losses coming against top-10 opponents. Also, MSU is 14-1 (93.3%) at Breslin Center in November under Merchant and 47-9 (83.9%) all-time in the opening month at Breslin.

All-time, the Spartans are now 27-14 in season openers, and 19-2 when the opener is in East Lansing. MSU has won its last 12 times when the season opener is at home. Coach Merchant is 4-2 in season openers at MSU, and has won 10 of her last 12, including her time at Eastern Michigan.

All-time, the Spartans are now 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.

- Five Spartans scored in double figures for the first time since Nov. 12, 2011 against N.C. A&T.
- MSU opened on a 17-2 run over the first nine minutes of the game, and began the second half on a 38-9 run.
- Klarissa Bell led the Spartans in points (tied career high with 19), rebounds (eight), assists (career high six) and steals (tied career high with three). It was the first time a Spartan led the team in points, rebounds and assists, since Lykendra Johnson vs. Ohio State on Feb. 23, 2011.
- Annalise Pickrel made her first career start, scoring in double figures for just the third time in her career, with a career high 18 points. She was 7-of-14 from the field, including a 4-for-7 effort from behind the arc, in just 27 minutes. Pickrel also added a career high four assists, without committing a turnover.
- Michigan State shot 71.4% (20-for-28) in the second half, its best field goal percentage in a half since also shooting 71.4% (25-for-35) in the second half against Niagara on Nov. 12, 2008.
- Jasmine Hines had a career high seven rebounds, all in the first half.
- Cara Miller's seven rebounds in 16 minutes, tied for the 11th most by a Spartan freshman in her debut.
- The Spartans converted the 25 UT Arlington turnovers into a 29-6 edge in points off turnovers.
- MSU held the Mavericks to 31.4% shooting for the game, including a 2-for-11 (18.2%) effort from the 3-point line.
- Michigan State improved to 2-0 all-time against UT Arlington.
- The Spartans' opener on Nov. 11, tied the second earliest calendar start (which also happened last season).

Growing up in East Lansing and being named Michigan's Miss Basketball as a high school senior, brought about high expectations for Klarissa Bell. 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, she was inserted in the starting lineup on Jan. 29 (vs. Penn State) and started the final 11 games last year. As a starter, including Sunday's 2012-13 opener, Bell is averaging 9.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 31.0 minutes.

Bell began the season on a high note on Sunday vs. UT Arlington, setting career highs in points (19), assists (6) and steals (3), all team highs, and also pacing the team with eight rebounds. She became the first Spartan in over 11 years (Kristen Rasmussen at Cincinnati on March 18, 2000 - 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists) to reach at least 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a game, and also the first MSU player to lead the team in points, rebounds and assists in the same game since Lykendra Johnson vs. Ohio State on Feb. 23, 2011.

Junior Annalise Pickrel got her first start on Sunday vs. UT Arlington, and proved she belong in that role. The 6-3 forward scored a career high 18 points, including a 4-for-7 effort from 3-point range, and also dished out a career high four assists (with no turnovers) in 27 minutes.

With the graduation of three seniors, and the early season suspension of Kiana Johnson, the Spartans needed someone to step up from behind the arc. Those four accounted for 70.0% of MSU's made 3-pointers in 2010-11. After knocking down four 3-pointers on Sunday, Pickrel may be that deep threat. She made five of her last 10 3-pointers over her last six games last season, providing a glimpse of what she could do if giving an opportunity as a junior.

Sophomore Jasmine Hines came to East Lansing as Michigan's high school career points and rebounds record holder. Thrust into a large role than expected as a freshman due to Madison Williams' season-ending injury, Hines was productive when she was on the floor. In only 10.3 minutes per game, she averaged 5.1 points and 2.5 rebounds, while shooting a team-best 54.2%. If you pro-rated her production over 40 minutes, she would have averaged 19.8 points and 9.7 rebounds.

Again a season-ending injury to Williams will increase her playing time this season. In the two exhibition games, Hines was second on the team with 15.0 points and tied for the team lead with 8.5 rebounds in 22.5 minutes off the bench. She shot 61.1% from the field and went to the free throw line 13 times. In the opener on Sunday vs. UT Arlington, she continued to produce, scoring 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, and grabbing a career high seven rebounds in 19 minutes.

In terms of years of experience, Michigan State enters the 2012-13 season as the 18th youngest team in the nation. The Spartans have 15 eligible players on their roster with a total of 17 years of playing experience (1.133 years per player). Of the 15 players, 10 are either freshmen or sophomores.

The 2012-13 Spartans will have some large shoes to fill with the graduation of three starters for the second-straight season. They return 58.5% of minutes, and despite losing three starters, return five players who started a game last year. In terms of production, 51% of the points return, to go along with 61% of rebounds, 61% of assists, 55% of steals and 47% of blocks. They will need someone to step up from behind the arc, as only 42% of the 3-point field goals from last year return.

Those numbers however do not account for the loss of four potential starters for all or part of the 2012-13 season. Redshirt sophomore center Madison Williams (torn left ACL) and freshman guard Aerial Powers (torn left Achilles tendon) are out for the season, while freshman guard Branndais Agee (stress fracture in left foot) is out for the first couple weeks of the season. In addition, starting point guard from last season, Kiana Johnson, and redshirt freshman Akyah Taylor, are sitting out the first nine games of 2012-13 due to a NCAA suspension.

2012-13 CAPTAINS
The Spartans will have three captains again this season, as seniors Courtney Schiffauer and Jasmine Thomas, and junior Klarissa Bell will hold the honor in 2012-13. Schiffauer was also a tri-captain last season.

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 52-4 (92.9%), including winning their last 35 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 89-8 (91.8%).

Michigan State led the Big Ten for the third time in four seasons in rebound margin (+6.3), which was 22nd in the nation. The Spartans have been top-40 in the country in rebound margin each of the last four seasons, getting as low as ninth nationally in 2010-11. MSU has out-rebounded 49 of its last 59 opponents, including a +13 margin in Sunday's opener vs. UT Arlington.

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 57 of their last 58 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 1-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 99-5 (95.2%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.

A common theme between Michigan State's wins and losses last season was its ability to get to the free throw line. In the wins, MSU shot 395 free throws (19.8 a game), in comparison to 13.5 a game in the losses (162 total). In its 20 wins, MSU is +66 in free throw attempts (+3.3 a game), while -98 (-8.2) in the 12 losses.

In Sunday's win over UT Arlington, went to the line nine more times than the Mavericks, shooting 19 free throws.

The Spartans have been 44-5 over the last four seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 12-3 mark last season.

In Coach Merchant's five seasons, the Spartans are 39-13 (75.0%) following a loss.

Michigan State is 4-1 all-time on Nov. 15, including wins the last three seasons.



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