Dec. 4, 2010
The Longhorns enter the Breslin Center with nationally-ranked in both polls (No. 17 in AP and No. 20 in USA Today/ESPN) and hold a 4-1 record. Texas has not played in a week, since losing 93-78 at No. 2 Stanford last Sunday. The Longhorns have posted wins at home against Boston, Idaho State, Mississippi Valley State and Northwestern State. Chassidy Fussell leads the Longhorns with 18.0 points, while Kathleen Nash is second with 16.6 points and 10.0 rebounds. Ashley Gaye is the team leader with 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 blocks, and Yvonne Anderson paces the team with 4.0 assists. Texas is one of the best defensive teams in the country, forcing 24.6 turnovers a game and ranking fourth nationally with 15.8 steals per game, led by Ashleigh Fontenette's 5.0 per game, which is second in the country.
Texas assistant coach Gale Valley was a four-year letterwinner for the Spartans from 1997-81. Valley played in 88 games, starting 31, and averaged 5.6 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists in her MSU career.
AGAINST THE LONGHORNS
Texas has won two of the three previous meetings with the Spartans. Their last meeting came in the second round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament in Austin, an 80-61 Longhorn win. The two programs also played a home-and-home during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons, with Texas winning in East Lansing, 82-72, on Nov. 23, 1996 and MSU picking up an 80-78 overtime win in Austin on Nov. 29, 1997.
BIG TEN/BIG 12 CHALLENGE
Today's game will be part of the inaugural Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. The Big 12 won the opening game after Kansas beat Wisconsin in overtime on Nov. 21. This weekend, 10 games are scheduled, with the final game set for Dec. 9 when Texas A&M hosts Purdue.
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan State overcame a 16-point first half deficit to upset No. 15/14 Florida State, 72-64, on Wednesday night in Tallahassee as part of the 2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge. MSU trailed 23-7 with 8:39 to go in the first half, but used a 28-4 run, including 19-straight points at one point, over 8:42 to take a lead it would not relinquish. The deficit overcome was the largest for MSU since coming back from 16 down to Iowa on Jan. 10, 2008. Senior Kalisha Keane scored 20 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, to lead four Spartans in double-figures. Junior Porsche Poole added a career-high 18 points and senior Brittney Thomas chipped in 14. Junior Lykendra Johnson narrowly missed triple-double with a season-high 11 points, a game- and season-high 11 rebounds and a career-high nine steals. Despite being outrebounded 45-29, the Spartans had 19 steals and forced 24 turnovers which turned they turned into 28 points. The win snapped Florida State's school record 13-game home winning streak.
AGAINST THE NATION'S BEST
Under head coach Suzy Merchant, MSU is 8-9 against ranked teams. Since the beginning of the 2004-05 season, the Spartans have 29 wins over nationally-ranked opponents, including 12 over top-10 teams and 15 on either the road or neutral floor.
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 34-4, including winning their last 17 games, while when they hold opponents under 60 points, their record is 53-6.
On Wednesday at No. 15 Florida State, Michigan State grabbed 19 steals, the most by a Big Ten team this season. It was the most by a Spartan team since they also had 19 against Michigan on Jan. 1, 2006. MSU is third in the Big Ten with 10.7 steals per game, and have posted double-figure steals in the last three games. Also over the past three games, MSU has had a positive turnover margin (+17), compared to a -8 mark over the first four contests.
Individually, junior Lykendra Johnson leads the Big Ten with 3.4 steals per game, coming off a career-high nine steals on Wednesday at FSU. Her nine steals tied for the second most in program history and were the most by an MSU player since Jamie Wesley grabbed a program record 12 steals on Feb. 2, 1996 against Minnesota. It was also the most in the Big Ten since Purdue's FahKara Malone had nine against Portland on Nov. 20, 2008. The nine steals also tie for the most in the nation this season. Senior Kalisha Keane is fifth in the BIg Ten with 2.4 steals per game, having totaled nine steals in her last two games.
CONNECTING FROM DOWNTOWN
The Spartans have made 60 3-pointers and are shooting 43.2% from behind the arc through the first seven games this season, both ranking second in the Big Ten. The 60 makes are the most to begin a season in program history. Nine different Spartans have hit a 3-pointer so far, led by 21 from senior Kalisha Keane, which ranks her third in the conference.
MSU already has three games this season where it has made 10 or more 3-pointers, setting a new single-season record. Since the line was put in prior to the 1987-88 season, Spartan teams have only made at least 10 3-pointers in a game nine times before this season. The 2000-01 and 2009-10 teams each accomplished the feat twice in a season, while the 1992-93, 1996-97, 1998-99, 2003-04 and 2006-07 teams did it once.
Over the past two games, the Spartans have gone 20-of-42 (47.6%) from behind the arc. The 20 made 3-pointers are the most in a two-game span in program history, breaking the record set earlier this season when they made 19 3-pointers over the first two games.
Not only is MSU one of the best teams in the Big Ten in 3-point shooting, but it is also second in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to a 27.8% clip (25-of-90). The 3.6 allowed per game is best in the Big Ten. The Spartans last four opponents have only made 13 3-pointers and have shot 25.5% (13-of-51).
Senior Kalisha Keane has topped 20 points in four games so far this season, tying her for second in the Big Ten. She only had four 20-point games over the past two seasons and nine in her career entering the season. Keane has scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games twice this season, including the last two games. Prior to Keane, the last Spartan to score 20 points in consecutive games was Allyssa DeHaan in the 2006-07 season (Nov. 29, Dec. 3) to accomplish that feat.
REAPING THE BENEFITS
Junior Porsche Poole spent a lot time this summer working on her conditioning and her shooting. Her hard work has paid off early in the 2010-11 season, as she is averaging a career-high 8.4 points to rank her third on the team. She has already topped her career high twice this season, including 18 points in Wednesday's upset win at No. 15 Florida State. In her career, MSU is 10-1 when she scores double-figures.
Poole has specifically seen huge improvements in her shooting from 3-point range. She entered the season, shooting 25.0% (20-of-80) from behind the arc in her first two years, but so far this season she is fifth in the Big Ten with a 52.6% (10-of-19) clip.
BECOMING MORE OFFENSIVE
With the insertion of sophomore Jasmine Thomas in the starting lineup the last three games, senior Brittney Thomas has moved over to the 2-guard position. The move has seen an increase in her offensive production. Over the past three games, B. Thomas is averaging 12.3 points, compared to 5.8 over the first four. She is shooting 52.6% during that stretch (39.1% in first four) and is 4-of-6 from 3-point range, her first 3-point attempts of the season.
STAYING WITHIN THE STATE LIMITS
Michigan State plays seven of its next eight games at home, and does not leave the state of Michigan until a trip to Ohio State on Jan. 16. The stretch is the longest since the 1974-75 team played all 18 games in the state.
AMONG SPARTAN GREATS
Senior Kalisha Keane moved into 15th-place on the Spartan career points list with 1,161, after her 22 points on Wednesday. Keane is now 20 points away from jumping into 14th and 21 points away from 13th. Keane is also fifth in free throw percentage (80.8%), sixth in 3-point field goals made (133), seventh in steals (197), 13th in 3-point field goal percentage (32.6%), 17th in field goals made (413), 18th in assists (246), 19th in games played (110) and 20th in minutes played (2,814).
Classmate Brittney Thomas is 11th all-time with 323 assists and tied for third all-time with 32.9 minutes per game. Her 323 career assists are second among active conference student-athletes, trailing Ohio State's Samantha Prahalis. Thomas is also 10th all-time with 96 games started, 12th with 3,222 minutes played and 20th with 156 steals.
Keane and Thomas are the top-two active career steal leaders in the Big Ten with 197 and 156, respectively.
Senior Kalisha Keane is the only active Big Ten student-athlete to have surpassed 1,000 points, 400 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals in their career. She is currently third among active conference players in points, fifth in rebounds, fourth in assists and first in steals.
NEW FOUND OFFENSIVE CONFIDENCE
Senior Cetera Washington was always thought of as being a defensive specialist, who's scoring would be a bonus. However, early in her final season, she has shown she can also be an offensive weapon for the 2010-11 Spartans. Entering the season, Washington had only two career double-figure scoring outputs in 102 career games, but she has already reached double-digits twice this season, doubling her career total. In fact, she had only scored at least seven points in 10 career games entering 2010-11, a feat she has reached three times this season.
Washington is sixth on the team averaging 6.3 points and second with 5.6 rebounds. She entered the season with career averages of 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds. Washington has shown great improvements in her shooting, hitting 41.2% from the field, 45.5% (5-of-11) from behind the arc and 57.9% (11-of-19) from the line, compared to career marks of 35.9%, 29.5% and 43.5%, respectively, entering the season.
SPARK FROM LONG RANGE
Junior Taylor Alton has been a asset off the bench over the past couple weeks for the Spartans. Alton has made her last five 3-point field attempts and leads the team with a 83.3% (5-of-6) percentage. In her last three games, she is averaging 6.3 points in only 7.3 minutes. Against Detroit (11/21), Alton scored double-figures for the first time in her career. She has already matched her career 3-point field goal total, making 4-of-21 in 19 games entering this season.
PROTECTING THE RIM
The Spartans have the fourth most blocks in the nation in the last four-plus seasons with 850 (North Carolina - 965, Baylor - 933, Connecticut - 861). However, they are third in blocks per game average at 5.9 (North Carolina - 6.5, Baylor - 6.4).
The Spartans had been among the NCAA leaders in blocks each of those four years, finishing the season seventh in 2009-10, eighth in 2008-09, 11th in 2007-08 and fourth in 2006-07.
HOW THE COMPUTERS RANK MSU
Early in the 2010-11 season, the Spartans are ranked second by RealTimeRPI.com and fourth according to CollegeRPI.com. MSU is second in the Big Ten to Ohio State who is first by both. The MSU schedule to this point is seventh by both CollegeRPI.com and RealTimeRPI.com. As a conference, the Big Ten is second in RPI overall by CollegeRPI.com and third by RealTimeRPI.com.
LET'S PLAY MORE TIME
The Spartans have relished playing extra time over the past seven seasons. MSU has won 13th straight overtime games, dating back to the 2003-04 season. The streak is the longest such run among Big Ten schools. Surprisingly, only two of the 13 wins have come at home. MSU's last overtime loss came on Feb. 28, 2002 against Ohio State, 89-82, in the Big Ten Tournament.
The 2010-11 basketball season is the Spartans' 22nd inside the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. MSU has an all-time record of 215-78 (.734) at Breslin and have been even more dominant of late in its cozy confines, posting a mark of 81-16 (.835) since 2003, including winning its last eight games.
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
For the past six-plus seasons, Michigan State has been one of the top programs in the country in regard to fan support. In each of the last six years, the Spartans have been among the nation's top 15 in attendance, averaging 6,382 fans per game, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind Purdue. MSU has finished as high as ninth in the country in 2006-07, while the single-season school record is 6,787, set in the 2005-06 season.
Last season against Washington (Dec. 19), the Spartans surpassed 1 million fans all-time at Breslin Center. In the 21-year history at Breslin, 1,067,644 fans have watched a MSU women's basketball game.
ON THIS DATE
Michigan State is 6-1 all-time on December 5, but have not played on this date since 2002, when it won at Oakland, 88-77.
DENNY MAYER RECOGNITION
Prior to Sunday's game, long-time official Denny Mayer will be presented with the Naismith Official of the Year Award, widely considered the most prestigious national honor in all of college basketball. The award recognizes individuals who display character, integrity and dignity and have contributed mightily to the growth, success and viability of college basketball over the course of their career. To be eligible, an individual must have been involved with the sport as a game official for at least 20 years, worked at least one final four as a game official and worked at least 10 conference tournaments as a game official. Mayer holds the record of the second-longest consecutive years of officiating the women's NCAA Tournament. He worked the 1998 Women's Final Four semifinal game, the Big Ten Tournament from 1995 to 2009 and the Mid-American Tournament from 1988 to 2009, including seven championship games.