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Women's Basketball Heads to Oakland Wednesday

Senior Courtney Schiffauer has set career highs in assists in each of the last two games (11 assists, 1 turnover).

Dec. 4, 2012

rv/- Michigan State (7-0) at Oakland (5-2)
 Date | Time Wednesday, Dec. 5 | 6:30 p.m.
 Location Rochester, Mich. | Athletics Center O'rena
 Televison none
 Internet Coverage Gametracker | Live Video (Subscription)
 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 | Oakland
 Statistics Michigan State | Oakland
 Video Suzy Merchant Weekly Press Conference
 Social Media @MSU_WBasketball   |  Facebook

The Grizzlies improved to 5-2 on Saturday with a 4OT victory over Western Michigan, 73-70. Oakland is 4-1 at home this season. The Grizzlies have been effective from 3-point range this season, ranking 11th in the nation (40.4%), led by Annemarie Hamlet, who is fifth in the NCAA with a 59.4% (19-32) mark. Hamlet is the team's leading scorer with 13.3 points, despite coming off the bench in every game. Olivia Nash is second on the team with 12.6 points and is averaging a double-double with 11.0 rebounds, which is 21st nationally. Like MSU, the Grizzlies have done a good job limiting their fouls, ranking third in the nation with only 10.7 per game.

Michigan State leads the all-time series over Oakland, 8-4. The Spartans have won the last four meetings, including a 67-42 decision last season in Breslin Center. MSU is 3-2 all-time in Rochester, but has not played there since 2002.

LAST MEETING (MSU 67, OAKLAND 42 - NOV. 27, 2011)
After going into the break up 30-24, the Spartans began the second half on a 14-2 run over the first six and a half minutes and held the Grizzlies to 18 second half points. Porsche Poole was the lone Spartan in double-figures, leading the way with 16 points. The Spartans held Oakland to 31.7% shooting for the game, including 19.0% (4-of-21) from behind the arc. MSU controlled the boards, outrebounding the Grizzlies, 47-30, leading to 20 second chance points. Michigan State tied a program low mark, committing only five fouls in the game, and keeping the Grizzlies off the foul line.

The game went back and forth early, but an 11-2 Spartan run towards the middle of the half, gave MSU a 23-17 lead it would not let go of. Oakland would cut the game to one point (25-24) with 1:32 to go in the half, but an Taylor Alton 3-pointer and a Kiana Johnson layup in the final 26 seconds gave the Spartans a 30-24 halftime lead. The Grizzlies scored on their first possession of the second half, but Michigan State ran off the next 14 points over the next six minutes to pretty much put the game away at 44-28. The Spartans would put together another long run, this time a 15-2 spurt covering eight minutes to open their largest lead of the game at 61-34 with just over four minutes left.

In the game, Suzy Merchant became the quickest head coach to 100 Spartan wins. She needed only 142 games, surpassing the previous mark by Karen Langeland and Joanne P. McCallie (155 games).

Michigan State has had great success against other collegiate programs in the state of Michigan over the past 11 seasons. Since the beginning of the 2002-03 season, the Spartans are 35-1 (.972) against in-state rivals, including a 20-1 (.952) mark under Coach Merchant. All-time, Michigan State is 168-56 (.750) against other Michigan schools.

- Five Spartans scored in double figures, led by a career-high 19 points from Jasmine Hines in only 19 minutes.
- As a team, MSU shot a season-best 53.2%, while holding Milwaukee to 28.6%, including 5-for-29 (17.2%) from 3-point.
- MSU distributed the ball well with 24 assists on its 33 made field goals, while only committing 12 turnovers. The assists were the most by a Spartan team since dishing out 27 vs. Detroit on Nov. 21, 2010.
- The Spartans out-rebounded the Panthers 49-29.
- Becca Mills scored a season-high 14 points, going 6-for-8 from the field, in 23 minutes. Annalise Pickrel went 5-for-6 from the field for 11 points, while Jasmine Thomas and Klarissa Bell added 10 points apiece. Thomas also had a game-high seven assists and seven rebounds, while Bell chipped in a career high tying six assists. Courtney Schiffauer filled the stat sheet with seven points, eight rebounds and a career-high six assists in 24 minutes.
- MSU began the game scoring the first eight points and jumped out to a 30-10 lead over the first 11 and a half minutes.
- Over the last two games, Courtney Schiffauer has 11 assists and only one turnover.
- MSU improved to 5-0 all-time against Milwaukee.

The Spartans have begun the 2012-13 season with a 7-0 record. They matched the 1999-00 team for the best start in program history (that team lost its eighth game). MSU is the only undefeated Big Ten team and one of 19 in the nation.

The Spartans have not trailed since the early minutes against Albany on Nov. 21, a span of 157:38 minutes. For the season, Michigan State has been behind for a total of 5:19 minutes.

The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State leads the nation, allowing only 41.1 points per game. The 288 points that MSU has allowed in its first seven 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 - 238 in 1973-74 and 273 in 1972-73.

MSU has held four of its first seven opponents below 40 points. It already ties for the second most game under 40 points in a season, trailing only the 1973-74 team (nine times). Entering this season, the Spartans had only held 32 opponents under 40 points in the first 1,124 games of the program.

Against Virginia Tech (Nov. 18) and Albany (Nov. 21), Michigan State allowed only 64 points combined. The total tied the sixth-fewest allowed in back-to-back games in program history. The five lowest totals were all during the 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons.

Last Thursday, NC State entered the game, ranking 13th in the nation, averaging 80.1 points per game, and the Spartans held them 29.1 points below their average. MSU has limited its last five opponents to well-below their season averages (Robert Morris - 18.5 points below, Albany 24.5, Virginia Tech - 24, NC State 29.1, Milwaukee 17.5).

One of the keys to Wednesday's game will be the Spartans' ability to defend the 3-point line. Oakland is 11th in the nation with a 40.4 3-point field goal percentage, while also hitting 6.3 per game. Leading scorer Annemarie Hamlet is fifth in the nation with a 59.4% mark, while making 2.7 per game. Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 25th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (22.3%), while allowing only 23 3-pointers all season. Over the last four games, MSU opponents have combined to shoot 17.6% (12-for-68) from 3-point range. On Sunday, Milwaukee entered the game top-20 in the nation in both 3-point makes and 3-point percentage, but were held to 5-for-29 (17.2%) effort.

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 12.0 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is third in the country. In addition, the Spartans are second in the league in turnover margin (+4.1).

The Spartans ability to distribute the ball joined with their low turnover numbers, put them atop the Big Ten and fourth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4). The starting backcourt of Jasmine Thomas, Klarissa Bell and Annalise Pickrel have led the way, combining for 79 assists compared to only 33 turnovers (2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio), while each averaging over 32 minutes a game. Over her last six games, Thomas has a 3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio (38 assists, 12 turnovers), while Pickrel has committed just one turnover this season in 227 minutes of action.

Coach Merchant has harped early in the season on the importance of keeping the opponent off the free throw and out of the bonus. So far, the Spartans have listened to their head coach, committing only 11.7 fouls per game, ranking sixth in the nation, and allowing only 9.0 free throw attempts per outing.

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 seven games this year, Bell is averaging 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 32.7 minutes.

So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 15.3 points, ranking 11th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the top-15 in the conference in minutes (seventh, 35.7), assist-to-turnover ratio (eighth, 1.8), field goal percentage (10th, 50.0%), assists (10th, 4.0) and 3-point field goal percentage (15th, 38.5%).

Bell has increased her scoring 11.2 points from last season (4.1 ppg in 2011-12), which is currently the best improvement in Spartan history and the largest increase from last year among Big Ten scorers.

Bell has set career highs in points three times already this season - in each of the first two games, pouring in 19 points vs. UT Arlington and 20 at Eastern Michigan, and then posting 21 points last Thursday at NC State. 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.

An uncertain role for her senior season awaited Jasmine Thomas as the 2011-12 season came to a close. Thomas was replaced as the starting point guard by Kiana Johnson by the end of the season, and managed to average only 5.0 points and 1.8 assists, while shooting 33.9% from the field, in 21.4 minutes. However, a nine-game suspension for Johnson to begin this season, opened the door for Thomas to step up as the team's leader in her final season.

Thomas has done just that on both ends of the floor, ranking second on the team with 12.1 points, having scored in double figures in all seven games, while leading the team with 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals. She ranks fourth in Big Ten and 31st in the nation in assists, while placing ninth in the conference in steals. Turnovers had been an issue for Thomas, maintaining a negative assist-to-turnover ratio over her first three seasons (160 assists, 183 turnovers), but this season, she leads the league and is 25th in the nation with a 2.5 a:to margin. More impressively, over the last six games, she has 38 assists and just 12 turnovers (3.2 a:to).

Junior Annalise Pickrel got her first career start in the opener vs. UT Arlington, and has proved in the first seven games that she belongs in that role. The 6-3 forward is averaging 11.6 points, including a career high 18 points in the opener, while dishing out 1.6 assists per game, and commiting just one turnover all year. Pickrel has already topped her point total of last season (70).

More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 17-for-40 (.425) from 3-point so far this season, after making only 19 in her first two seasons (59 games) and shooting 30.2%. Her 2.6 3-pointers a game is sixth in the Big Ten, while her 3-point field goal percentage is 11th in the conference. 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 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 first seven games, Hines is averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in only 20.6 minutes, while shooting 52.6% from the field, which is eighth in the Big Ten. MSU is 8-0 when she reaches double-digit points in her career.

The second NCAA statistical report came out on Monday, and the Spartans are among the national leaders in many statistical categories. Michigan State lead the country in points allowed with 41.4 per game, ahead of the rest of the nation by 2.2 points per game (Connecticut, 43.6). The Spartans are also third in fewest turnovers (12.0), fourth in field goal percentage defense (.292), fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.4), sixth in fewest turnovers (11.7), seventh in scoring margin (+29.0), 16th in field goal percentage (.464), 21st in rebound margin (+10.0), 22nd in assists (17.1) and 3-point field goal percentage defense (.223).

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 53-4 (93.0%), including winning their last 36 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 95-8 (92.2%).

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. This season, MSU leads the Big Ten and is 21st in the NCAA with a +10.0 rebound margin. MSU has out-rebounded 54 of its last 65 opponents.

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 63 of their last 64 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 7-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 105-5 (95.5%) 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.

MSU has shot 43 more free throws than its opponent (106-to-63) over the first seven games this season. The Spartans have been 50-5 (90.9%) over the last four seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 7-0 record this season and a 12-3 mark last season.

Michigan State is 7-1 all-time on December 5, including its last trip to Oakland in 2002, an 88-77 victory.



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