Nov. 25, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
The No. 21/19 Michigan State women's basketball team ends a stretch of six games in 16 days on Tuesday night when it travels to Temple (3-0) for a 7 p.m. tip at McGonigle Hall. It is the Spartans' first road game since the opener on Nov. 11. Michigan State (4-1) is riding a four-game winning streak in which it has scored at least 80 points in each game.
The Owls will enter the game having not played in 10 days, but are undefeated on the season at 3-0. Temple has road wins at LaSalle and Delaware, and a home victory over Auburn in its last game. Tyonna Williams leads the way with 16.7 points and 5.0 assists, while shooting 60.0% (9-for-15) from the 3-point line. In all five Owls average double figures. Temple is -5.0 on the boards this season, but are led by Natasha Thames' 8.7 rebounds. Defensively, Temple is forcing 22.3 turnovers and picking up 11.3 steals, while holding teams to 59.7 points.
AGAINST THE OWLS
Michigan State leads the all-time series against Temple, 3-0. The Spartans are making their first trip to Philadelphia, as the first three meeting were in East Lansing. The two schools met last season (Dec. 29) in Breslin Center with MSU posting a 57-47 victory.
LAST MEETING (MSU 57, Temple 47 - Dec. 29, 2012 - Breslin Center)
- Recap | Box Score
- Annalise Pickrel led MSU with 16 points, including 3-for-7 from 3-point. Klarissa Bell filled the stat sheet with seven points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. Her rebound and block totals are career highs.
- Temple scored the first two points of the game, but after a 3-point play by Pickrel at 17:26, MSU never trailed the rest of the way.
- The Spartan defense held Temple to 30.4% shooting from the field and forced 17 turnovers.
QUICK HITTERS FROM SUNDAY (No. 21/19 MICHIGAN STATE 81, RICE 68)
- The victory was overshadowed by the long-awaited return to the court by Madison Williams. The 6-7 center missed all but three games in the last three seasons due to three separate ACL injuries, played for the first time since Nov. 15, 2011. She played five minutes tonight, totaling six points, a rebound, a block and a steal.
- The Spartans were led by four double-figure scorers. Becca Mills tied her career-high with 20 points, while also adding six rebounds. Kiana Johnson added season highs of 15 points and seven assists, while not committing a turnover. Annalise Pickrel scored 14 points, with 12 of them coming in the second half, and Klarissa Bell had 10 points and tied her career-high with six assists.
- Aerial Powers led MSU with seven rebounds tonight. She became the fifth different Spartan to lead the team in rebounding through five games.
- The Spartans shot 52.5% from the field, including 61.3% in the second half, while dishing out a season-high 20 assists.
- MSU was effective in the paint, scoring 54 of its 81 points around the rim.
- The first half featured nine ties and eight lead changes, but the Spartans took control in the second half.
- Mills becomes the fourth Spartan to have scored 20 points in a game this season.
IN THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER
The Spartans are 97-35 (73.5%) all-time in the month of November. Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 36-8 (81.8%) in November, with five of the eight losses coming against top-10 opponents. At home, the Spartans are 26-1 in November under Coach Merchant.
Early on in the 2013-14 season, the Spartans have been extremely efficient offensively and are looking like one of the best offensive teams during Coach Merchant's tenure at Michigan State. Currently, MSU leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage (50.5%), assists (18.2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.23), while also second in 3-pointers (7.2), and third in points (84.2) and 3-point field goal percentage (37.5%).
Currently, Michigan State has scored at least 80 points in four-straight games for the first time in program history. The previous longest streak was three, set during the 1996-97, 1999-00 and 2001-02 seasons. The point of 359 during this stretch is also the most in a four-game span in MSU history.
EFFECTIVENESS FROM THE FIELD
As a team, Michigan State leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage at 50.5%, while individually, four Spartans are among the top-12 in the conference. Branndais Agee leads the way in fifth at 58.6%, while Annalise Pickrel is seventh (56.5%), Klarissa Bell is ninth (55.6%) and Aerial Powers is 12th (52.1%).
Michigan State has already shot at least 50% from the field three times in the first five games. All of last season, MSU shot over 50% on only five occasions.
COMFORTABLE AT HOME
The Spartans just completed a perfect 4-0 homestand this weekend. Michigan State's offensive numbers at home so far this season have been impressive. In the four home games, the Spartans are averaging 89.8 points, while shooting 52.2% from the field and 41.8% from 3-point, where they made 8.3 per game. MSU dished out 18.8 assists to just 14.0 turnovers.
WORTH THE WAIT
Saturday marked the long-awaited return to the court of 6-7 center Madison Williams. The former McDonalds All-American suffered three ACL injuries over the past three seasons, limiting her to three career games entering this season. Williams stepped onto the court against Rice for the first time since Nov. 15, 2011 to a standing ovation from the Breslin Center crowd. In her five minutes of action, she went 3-of-4 from the field for six points, while also adding a rebound, a block and a steal.
In the overtime win over No. 23/21 Dayton, three Spartans posted at over 20 points - Tori Jankoska (24), Aerial Powers (24) and Annalise Pickrel (21). It was the first time since Feb. 8, 1998 that three MSU players reached 20 points in the same game.
On Saturday, Becca Mills became the fourth Spartan to score at least 20 points in a game. MSU and Ohio State are the only two teams in the Big Ten to have four different 20-point scorers this season.
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 37-13 record, while averaging 10.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 34.1 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.
This season, Bell is fourth on the team with 10.8 points, but is second in and assists (4.0), and third in rebounds (5.0) and steals (1.4). She has been efficient from the field, shooting 55.6% from the field, which is ninth in the conference, 42.9% from the 3-point line, which is 14th, and 80.0% from the foul line; all of which would be career highs.
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 has begun her senior season on a high note, building off her success last season. Through five games, she leads the team with 7.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, in addition to averaging 13.4 points (second on the team) and 2.8 assists in 29.0 minutes. Pickrel is shooting 56.5% from the field, 45.5% from the 3-point line (5-for-11) and 83.3% (10-for-12) from the free throw line. Among Big Ten players, Pickrel is seventh in field goal percentage, 11th in rebounds and 3-point field goal percentage, 13th in blocks, 14th in free throw percentage, and 21st in points.
Pickrel is the only player in the Big Ten to rank among the top-15 in all three shooting percentages.
In the season opener at No. 6 Notre Dame, Pickrel posted her first career double-double (11 points and 12 rebounds), while also setting career highs with 12 rebounds and five assists, both team highs. With her stat line, Pickrel became the first Spartan since Kalisha Keane on Dec. 8, 2007 vs. Indiana State to tally at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a game.
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 that 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 89 3-point field goals made, while ranking fifth with a career 35.5% 3-point field goal percentage.
TAKING CARE OF THE ROCK
Junior Kiana Johnson has orchestrated the Spartan offense through her first three 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. She has been equally careful with the ball, posting a career assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.87 (256:137), which is second in the MSU record books. So far in 2013-14, Johnson is seventh in the Big Ten and leads the team with 4.6 assists per game, and is second in the conference with a 3.83 assist-to-turnover ratio. Over her last two games, she has 13 assists and only one turnover.
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 currently is seventh on the MSU career steals list at 1.8.
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.
Mills has opened the 2013-14 season with back-to-back double-figure scoring games, but struggled against Dayton and Detroit, before coming alive on Saturday vs. Rice. Mills tied her career high with 20 points, going 8-for-14 from the field. For the season, she is averaging 10.6 points and 5.8 rebounds in 26.8 minutes.
Freshman Tori Jankoska has made a quick impression on the 2013-14 Spartan season. Despite coming off the bench, the 5-8 guard leads Michigan State in scoring with 14.4 points per game, which is also 14th in the Big Ten. Jankoska was the first Spartan freshman ever to begin her MSU career with four-straight double-figure scoring games.
Jankoska has been a tremendous threat from behind the arc, ranking third in the Big Ten in 3-pointers per game (2.4) and 14th in 3-point field goal percentage (42.9%).
Against Dayton, Jankoska and redshirt freshman Aerial Powers each scored 24 points. It was the most points scored by a Spartan freshman since Kalisha Keane scored 24 points in the WNIT Championship game vs. Marquette on April 5, 2008.
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.
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, but Powers has been the first to make an immediate impact. Recently named Big Ten Freshman of the Week, she is third on the team with 12.0 points, while also avergaing a balanced line of 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a team-best 2.4 steals in just 22.4 minutes. Powers is also 12th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (52.1%), in addition to ranking ninth in steals.
Agee has been up-and-down so far this season. On Wednesday against Detroit, she became the first Spartan freshman to post a double-double since Lykendra Johnson at Indiana on Feb. 12, 2009. Agee led MSU with 17 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs, in a career-high 23 minutes. For the season, Agee is averaging 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in only 13.8minutes. She leads the team and is fifth in the Big Ten with a 58.6% field goal percentage.
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 61-4 (93.8%), including winning their last 43 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 112-10 (91.8%).
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 85 of their last 86 games (98.8%) when leading with five minutes left, including winning 36 games in a row. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 127-5 (96.2%) when holding a lead with five minutes left.
In Coach Merchant's first six-plus seasons at MSU, the Spartans have gone 144-63 (69.6%). 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 144 wins are second among Big Ten schools, trailing only Ohio State (154). 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.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 11-3 all-time on Nov. 26, having won its last seven games.
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.).