Nov. 20, 2012
The Great Danes come to Breslin Center Wednesday with a 2-1 record, having won their last two games - 67-54 over LIU and 68-54 at Western Michigan. Lindsay Lowrie leads UAlbany in scoring with 11.7 points per game, doing most of her damage from behind the arc, hitting 9-of-17 (.529). Julie Forster is averaging a double-double with 10.3 points and 11.3 rebounds. The two-time defending America East Defensive Player of the Year, Ebone Henry leads the team with 4.0 steals per game.
UAlbany was picked to repeat as America East champions, after returning three starters from last year's team that went 23-10 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Ebone Henry and Julie Forster were preseason all-conference selections. The Great Danes are led by third-year head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who was MSU's associate head coach from 2000-02.
AGAINST THE GREAT DANES
Michigan State and UAlbany meet for the first time.
The Spartans have begun the 2012-13 season with a 3-0 record. It is the 11th time in program history that Michigan State has won its first three games, and the first time since 2008-09.
IN THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER
The Spartans are 90-34 (72.6%) all-time in the month of November. Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 29-7 (80.5%) in November, with four of the seven losses coming against top-10 opponents. Also, MSU is 15-1 (93.8%) at Breslin Center in November under Merchant and 48-9 (84.2%) all-time in the opening month at Breslin.
QUICK HITTERS FROM SUNDAY (MSU 57, VIRGINIA TECH 29)
- Jasmine Hines led the Spartans offensively for the first time in her career with 12 points in only 19 minutes. Jasmine Thomas, Klarissa Bell and Becca Mills each added 10 points in the win. Courtney Schiffauer grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Bell and Thomas each had game highs with five assists and three steals.
- Michigan State closed the half on a 14-2 run over the final 4:36 to take a 30-16 lead into halftime. The Spartans' lead grew to as much as 30 in the second half with a 13-0 run over nearly a seven minute span late in the game.
- The 29 points by Virginia Tech were the second fewest scored in Breslin Center history (27 - Michigan on Feb. 19, 2009).
- The 29 points allowed is the third fewest allowed by MSU in the 3-point era and ninth lowest all-time.
- It was the fewest points that Virginia Tech has scored in a game in its program's history (first season - 1976-77).
-The 13 second half points by Virginia Tech were the fewest allowed by MSU in a half since Northwestern scored 11 in the second half on March 4, 2011.
- MSU committed only eight turnovers; its fewest in a game since having seven at Indiana State on Dec. 8, 2007.
- MSU held Virginia Tech to 25.6% from the field and forced 21 turnovers.
- Michigan State beat Virginia Tech for the first time, having lost on neutral floors in 1994 and 2000.
The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State has held each of its opponents below 50 points, allowing only 39.0 points per game. The 117 points that MSU has allowed in its first three games are the third fewest all-time to begin the season, and the fewest since the addition of the 3-point line in 1987-88. The two lowest marks happened in the first two seasons - 94 in 1973-74 and 102 in 1972-73.
LIMITING THE MISTAKES
Over Coach Merchant's first five seasons in East Lansing, the Spartans have struggled with turnovers, averaging 17.6 per game. However, early on in the 2012-13 season, Michigan State has turned the ball over only 10.3 times a game. On Sunday, the Spartans committed only eight turnovers; its fewest in a game since having seven at Indiana State on Dec. 8, 2007. The starting backcourt of Jasmine Thomas, Klarissa Bell and Annalise Pickrel have combined for 34 assists compared to only 13 turnovers (2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio), while each averaging over 33 minutes a game.
STEPPING IT UP
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 the first two games this year, Bell is averaging 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 32.0 minutes.
So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 16.3 points and 4.7 assists, while also third on the team with 6.0 rebounds and second with 2.0 assists. She is shooting 55.6% from the floor and 57.1% from behind the arc.
Bell has set career highs in points in each of the first two games, pouring in 19 points vs. UT Arlington and 20 at Eastern Michigan on Thursday. In the opener vs. UTA, 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.
PICK AND POP
Junior Annalise Pickrel got her first career start in the opener vs. UT Arlington, and has proved in the first three games that she belongs in that role. The 6-3 forward is averaging 11.3 points, including a career high 18 points in the opener, while dishing out 2.0 assists per game, without committing a turnover.
More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 8-for-18 (.444) from 3-point so far this season, after making only 19 in her first two seasons (59 games) and shooting 30.2%. With the graduation of three seniors, and the early season suspension of Kiana Johnson, the Spartans need someone to step up from behind the arc. Those four accounted for 70.0% of MSU's made 3-pointers in 2011-12.
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 first three regular season games, Hines is averaging 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 19.7 minutes, while shooting 59.1% from the field. On Sunday, she led the team in scoring for the first time in her career, and MSU is now 6-0 when she reaches double digit points in her career.
The 2012-13 basketball season is the Spartans' 24th inside the Breslin Center. MSU has an all-time record of 240-82 (.745) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, having won 34 of its last 38 games (.895).
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
The Spartans broke their single-season attendance record for the second straight season last year, cementing themselves as one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. Last season marked the eighth straight season that the Spartans had been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 7,505 fans per game, which ranked eighth in the nation and second in the Big Ten. It was MSU's highest national ranking.
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.
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 91-8 (91.9%).
CRASHING THE BOARDS
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 50 of its last 61 opponents.
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 59 of their last 60 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 3-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 101-5 (95.3%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
GETTING TO THE LINE
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.
MSU has shot 27 more free throws than its opponent (45-to-18) over the first three games this season. The Spartans have been 46-5 (90.2%) over the last four seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 3-0 record this season and a 12-3 mark last season.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 4-0 all-time on Nov. 21.