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Women's Basketball Returns to Jenison Field House Sunday

The Spartans play their first game in Jenison Field House since 1989 on Sunday.

Dec. 14, 2012

Michigan State (8-1) vs. IPFW (3-6)
 Date | Time Sunday, Dec. 16 | 2 p.m.
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | Jenison Field House
 Televison none
 Internet Coverage Gametracker | Live Stats (Mobile Users)
 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 | IPFW
 Statistics Michigan State | IPFW
 Video Suzy Merchant Weekly Press Conference - Dec. 10
Suzy Merchant Show - Episode 4
 Social Media @MSU_WBasketball   |  Facebook

The Mastodons are riding a three-game losing streak to drop their season record to 3-6. IPFW is led by Amanda Hyde, who is 20th in the nation with 20.3 points per game, the lone Mastodon averaging double figures. She also leads the team with 3.4 assists and 1.7 steals. Stefanie Mauk is the top rebounder for IPFW with 6.9 per game, but as a team, they are -2.7 per game. IPFW is 11th in the nation with a 78.2% free throw percentage.

Michigan State leads the all-time series over IPFW 2-0, winning in Breslin Center each of the last two seasons.

LAST MEETING (MSU 62, IPFW 56 - NOV. 15, 2011)
In last year's home opener, Michigan State needed a late run to top IPFW, 62-56. Lykendra Johnson led the Spartans with a double-double, posting 14 points and a career-high 20 rebounds. Taylor Alton added 14 points, while Kiana Johnson tallied her first career double-figure night with 13 points, going 3-of-4 from the 3-point line, and dished out a game-high four assists. Becca Mills posted nine points, a season-high 10 rebounds and three blocks.

The Spartans led by as much as 10, jumping out to an 18-8 lead seven minutes into the game. IPFW fought back cutting the MSU lead to two (20-18) with a 10-2 run over the next six minutes. Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm over the rest of the half, as the Spartans took a slim 29-25 lead into the break. MSU shot only 30.3% in the first, while the Mastodons were held to 28.0% over the first 20 minutes.

IPFW came out and tied the game up at 31 early in the second half, but Michigan State responded with six-straight points and held the Mastodons scoreless for five minutes, to open a 37-31 lead. IPFW responded with a counter-punch, ripping off an 11-1 run of its own to take its first lead of the game at 42-38 with 10 minutes to go. The roller coaster half continued as the Spartans scored the next nine points, behind five points from Alton, to open a lead they would not relinquish. The MSU lead would grow to as many as nine down the stretch, but IPFW would not give in, getting within three (55-52) with a minute left. The backbreaker came as Jasmine Hines made her first free throw but missed the second, but L. Johnson cleaned up the miss with a put back to give MSU a six-point advantage.

MSU outrebounded the Mastodons, 54-37, including 22 offensive rebounds that led to a 22-4 advantage in second chance points.

Michigan State plays at Jenison Field House for the first time since 1989. The last time the Spartans played at Jenison was March 11, 1989, a 74-63 loss to No. 8 Iowa. MSU spent five seasons playing in Jenison, compiling a 40-26 record.

Head coach Suzy Merchant played two games at Jenison Field House as part of the Felpausch/MSU Holiday Classic during her freshman season at Central Michigan. The Chippewas lost to Washington, 79-61 on Dec. 18, 1987, and beat Rice 84-80 the next day. Merchant started both games, averaging 5.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 29.5 minutes per game. She was 4-for-8 from the field, but had a 4:11 assist-to-turnover ratio.

- The Spartans lost their first game of the season on Saturday, falling 60-53 at No. 19/18 Dayton.
- Becca Mills scored a season-high 18 points, including 14 in the first half.
- Courtney Schiffauer posted a double-double with a season-high 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. She also added a team-high four assists and a career-high three blocks, while playing all 40 minutes for the first time in her career.
- Dayton scored on its first possession to snap a streak of 198 minutes in which the Spartans had not trailed in a game.
- The Spartans shot a season-low 29.7%, including a 2-for-15 (13.3%) effort from the 3-point line.
- MSU played without 6-3 sophomore center Jasmine Hines (10.3 points per game this season), who was back home in Central Lake to attend the funeral of one of her high school friends.
- Dayton entered the game ranked fifth in the nation averaging 83.3 points, but were held to a season-low 60 points by MSU.
- The Flyers were also 11th in the nation with 8.2 3-pointers per game, but the Spartans held them to 4-for-16 (25.0%).
- In her two games at UD Arena, Courtney Schiffauer is averaging 16.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Despite the loss at No. 18 Dayton on Saturday, the Spartans are still off to their best start in program history at 8-1. Only seven other Spartan teams have gone 8-1 in their first nine games (2010-11, 2007-08, 2004-05, 2003-04, 2001-02, 1999-00, 1973-74). MSU won its first eight games of the season for the first time in program history (1999-00 team won its first seven games).

On Saturday, Dayton scored on its first possession, snapping a stretch of over 198 minutes in which the Spartans did not trail, dating back to the opening minutes against Albany on Nov. 21. Prior to Saturday, where it trailed for 18:41, MSU trailed 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 43.4 points per game. The 391 points that MSU has allowed in its first nine 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 - 1973-74 and 1972-73.

Michigan State has held each of its opponents below its season average, more impressively over the last seven games (Robert Morris - 18.5 points below, Albany 24.5, Virginia Tech - 24, NC State 29.1, Milwaukee 17.5, Oakland 21.7, Dayton 23.3). Dayton entered the game fifth in the country, averaging 83.3 points per game, while NC State was also top-15 in the nation (13th) with 80.1 points per game.

MSU has held four of its first nine 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.

Michigan State has been especially effective in shutting down the opposing team's leading scorer. Each players has been held below their scoring average by a combined margin of 6.5 points per game. The players have also combined to shoot 29.3% (29-for-99) from the field.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 31st in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (23.7%), while allowing only 32 3-pointers (3.6 per game) all season. Over the last six games, MSU opponents have combined to shoot 21.0% (21-for-100) from 3-point range. The last three opponents entered the game ranked top-20 in the nation in 3-point shooting, and the Spartans were able to hold them in check. Dayton, who was 11th in 3-pointers made (8.2), went 4-for-16 (25.0%), while Oakland went 5-for-16 (31.3%) and Milwaukee was 5-for-29 (17.2%).

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 12.0 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is third in the country.

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 (1.3). Three Spartans rank in the top-10 in the Big Ten, while two are among the top-40 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. Senior Courtney Schiffauer leads the way with a 2.2 ratio which is second in the Big Ten and 32nd in the nation. Over her last four games, she has 21 assists to only six turnovers (3.5 ratio). Starting point guard Jasmine Thomas is third in the Big Ten and 36th nationally with a 2.1 mark, while playing a Big Ten-best 36.8 minutes. Junior Klarissa Bell is ninth in the league with a 1.5 ratio. In addition, junior Annalise Pickrel has committed only four turnovers in 290 minutes this season.

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 9.1 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 nine games this year, Bell is averaging 11.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 33.0 minutes.

So far this season, Bell has stepped up as the team's offensive leader, leading the team with 15.0 points, ranking 13th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the top-20 in the conference in minutes (fifth, 35.7), field goal percentage (eighth, 51.0%), assist-to-turnover ratio (ninth, 1.5), assists (13th, 3.6), 3-point field goal percentage (14th, 38.2%) and rebounds (19th, 6.0).

Bell is currently the only player in the Big Ten to average at least 15 points, six rebounds and 3.5 assists. If she was able to keep up that pace, no Spartan has ever averaged those marks in a single season.

Bell has increased her scoring 10.9 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 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 11.6 points, while leading the team with 4.9 assists and 2.1 steals. She ranks sixth in Big Ten in assists, while placing eighth 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 is third in the league and is 36th in the nation with a 2.1 a:to margin. More impressively, over the last eight games, she has 42 assists and just 17 turnovers (2.5 a:to). Thomas has done all of this, while playing 36.8 minutes, which is first in the conference.

Junior Annalise Pickrel got her first career start in the opener vs. UT Arlington, and has proved in the first nine games that she belongs in that role. The 6-3 forward is averaging 10.8 points, including a career high 18 points in the opener, while dishing out 1.7 assists per game, and committing just four turnovers all year. Pickrel has already topped her point and assist totals of last season.

More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 19-for-46 (.413) from 3-point so far this season, after making only 19 in her first two seasons (59 games) and shooting 30.2%. Her 2.1 3-pointers a game is eighth 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.

Senior Courtney Schiffauer may not get all the recognition, but has been a vital part of the early season success for Michigan State. Having moved in and out of the starting lineup throughout her Spartan career, she has finally solidified her spot in the starting five this season. Her numbers have been solid across the board this year with 7.7 points, a team-best 7.3 rebounds (which is eighth in the Big Ten), 3.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game, while compiling a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Her distribution of the ball has increase immensely over the last four games, averaging 5.3 assists during the span, including setting career highs in three of the last four games, after averaging 0.9 assists through her first 96 games as a Spartan.

On Saturday at Dayton, Schiffauer posted her first career double-double with a season-high 12 points and a career-high tying 11 rebounds.

Sophomore Becca Mills struggled offensively over the first five games of the season, but has turned it on of late, providing another weapon for the Spartan offense. Mills entered the season as MSU's top returning scorer (7.2 points) and rebounder (4.3), but was forced to move from the 4 to the 5 position due to Madison Williams' season-ending injury. It took her some time to adjust, as Mills averaged 7.2 points and shot just 26.2% (11-for-42) from the field and 25.0% (2-for-8) from 3-point range in the first five games. Since then, a span of four games, Mills is averaging 12.5 points and shooting 59.4% (19-for-32) from the field, including a 4-for-5 mark from the 3-point line in 22.3 minutes

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%.

Again a season-ending injury to Williams will increase her playing time this season. In the first eight games, Hines is averaging 10.3 points and 4.4 rebounds in only 19.5 minutes, while shooting 54.8% from the field, which is fourth in the Big Ten. MSU is 8-0 when she reaches double-digit points in her career.

The third 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 43.4 per game, ahead of the rest of the nation by 1.6 points per game (South Carolina, 45.0). The Spartans are also third in fewest turnovers (12.0), fourth in field goal percentage defense (.303), fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), sixth in fewest fouls (11.7), 11th in scoring margin (+24.6), 18th in field goal percentage (.455), 22nd in rebound margin (+9.8), 31st in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.237), 34th in assists (16.0) and 50th in 3-point field goal percentage (.351).

Freshman Branndais Agee will miss the rest of the 2012-13 season, after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee in practice on Thursday, Dec. 13. A date for surgery has yet to be determined. The typical recovery time is 4-6 months. It is the third season-ending injury for MSU.

Agee had been slowly working her way back into the rotation in the last five games, after missing the first four games with a stress fracture in her left foot. On the season, she averaged 2.8 points and 3.6 rebounds in 13.2 minutes.

A highly-touted recruit coming out of Cass Tech, Agee was an honorable mention high school All-American by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) her senior season and finished second in the voting for 2012 Michigan's Miss Basketball . As a senior, she averaged 25.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 blocked shots, also earning Dream Team honors from the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News. ESPN's Hoopgurlz ranked Agee 28th nationally.

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 55-4 (93.1%), including winning their last 37 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 96-9 (91.4%).

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

Michigan State led the Big Ten for the third time in four seasons in rebound margin (+6.3) last year, 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 22nd in the NCAA with a +9.8 rebound margin. MSU has out-rebounded 55 of its last 66 opponents.

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 64 of their last 65 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 8-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 106-5 (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.

The Spartans have been 50-6 (89.3%) over the last four seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 7-1 record this season and a 12-3 mark last season.

Michigan State is 3-2 all-time on December 16.



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