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Spartans in Las Vegas for South Point Holiday Hoops Classic

Senior Jasmine Thomas and the Spartans are off to a 9-1 start for the sixth time in program history.

Dec. 18, 2012

Michigan State (9-1) vs. Oregon State (6-4)/Texas Tech (8-1)
South Point Holiday Hoops Classic
 Date | Time Wed.-Thurs., Dec. 19-20 | 4 p.m./5:30 p.m.
 Location Las Vegas, Nev. | South Point Arena
 Televison none
 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 | Oregon State
 Statistics Michigan State | Oregon State | Texas Tech
 Social Media @MSU_WBasketball   |  Facebook

The Beavers enter the week at 6-4, coming off a 73-62 loss at Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Freshman Jamie Weisner leads Oregon State in scoring with 11.2 points per game. OSU has been strong defensively allowing 57.5 points and a 32.8% field goal percentage. The Beavers are 13th in the nation with 6.1 blocks per game.

Michigan State and Oregon State have met only once previously, a 86-65 Beaver win in East Lansing on Dec. 5, 1992.

The Red Raiders are riding a seven-game winning streak and enter the tournament 8-1. Defense has been the key to Texas Tech's early season success, ranking top-20 in the nation in points allowed (49.3), steals (12.3) and turnover margin (+9.4). Casey Morris is the top scorer with 13.2 points, while also adding 3.3 steals per game. `

Michigan State and Texas Tech have also only met once prior to Thursday. The Red Raiders defeated MSU 78-64 on Dec. 20, 1988 in the Golden Bear Classic in Berkeley, Calif.

Wednesday will mark Michigan State's first ever game in the state of Nevada.

Michigan State is 75-42 all-time in regular-season tournaments. The Spartans are 20-6 over the last nine seasons.

- Annalise Pickrel led MSU in scoring for the first time in her career, posting 15 points and a career-high seven rebounds.
- Becca Mills added 13 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.
- Courtney Schiffauer posted her second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
- Kiana Johnson, in her first game back from suspension, dished out a game-high six assists and grabbed three steals.
- The Spartans dominated the first half, taking a 40-11 lead into intermission. MSU scored the first six points of the game, but the Mastodons held close, 8-4 with 13:58 to go in the first. Michigan State responded with a 19-0 run over the next 5:41 to blow the game open. After a Rachel Mauk layup stopped the streak, the Spartans ran off nine more points in a row to go up 36-7.
- The Spartan defense held IPFW to 28.3% shooting from the field, including 18.8% (3-for-16) from behind the arc.
- MSU forced 22 turnovers and held a 25-2 advantage in points off turnovers.
- The Spartans outrebounded the Mastodons 47-30, including a season-high 21 offensive boards.
- The Spartans held IPFW's leading scorer Amanda Hyde, who was 20th in the nation with 20.3 points per game, to nine points, all in the second half, on 2-of-12 shooting. MSU has held each of its opponent's leading scorer under her season average.
- The 11 first half points allowed are the fewest in the first half and the third fewest in any half since the 1974-75 season.
- It was MSU's first game in Jenison Field House since March 11, 1989. MSU is now 41-26 all-time in Jenison Field House.
- MSU improved to 3-0 all-time against IPFW, beating them each of the last three seasons.

The Spartans are off to their best start in program history at 9-1. Only five other Spartan teams have gone 9-1 in their first 10 games (2010-11, 2004-05, 2003-04, 2001-02, 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).

Two games ago at Dayton (Dec. 8), the Flyers 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. Aside from that game, where MSU trailed for 18:41, MSU has trailed a total of 5:19 minutes in its other nine games.

The key to the Spartan success so far this season as been their ability to defend. Michigan State leads the nation, allowing only 42.7 points per game. The 427 points that MSU has allowed in its first 10 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 (played only nine games).

Michigan State has held each of its opponents below its season average, more impressively over the last eight 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, IPFW 23.8). 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 five of its first 10 opponents below 40 points. It already is the second most games 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 player has been held below their scoring average by a combined margin of 7.0 points per game. The players have also combined to shoot 27.9% (31-for-111) from the field.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten and is 19th in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense (23.2%), while allowing only 35 3-pointers (3.5 per game) all season. Over the last seven games, MSU opponents have combined to shoot 20.7% (24-for-116) from 3-point range. The three of the last four 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%).

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 12.1 times a game, which leads the Big Ten and is fifth in the country. As a result, the Spartans are allowing only 7.5 points off turnovers, while in turn, posting 17.3 points per game off their opponent's turnovers.

The Spartans ability to distribute the ball joined with their low turnover numbers, put them atop the Big Ten and seventh 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 nation's leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio. Senior Courtney Schiffauer leads the way with a 2.0 ratio which is second in the Big Ten and 35th in the nation. Over her last five games, she has 22 assists to only eight turnovers (2.8 ratio). Starting point guard Jasmine Thomas is fourth in the Big Ten and 51st nationally with a 1.9 mark, while playing 36.2 minutes. Junior Klarissa Bell is 10th in the league with a 1.4 ratio. In addition, junior Annalise Pickrel has committed only four turnovers in 321 minutes this season and sophomore Kiana Johnson dished out a team-best six assists with only one turnover in her season debut vs. IPFW.

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 11.9 fouls per game, ranking ninth in the nation, and allowing only 9.3 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 10 games this year, Bell is averaging 10.9 points, 5.0 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 14.0 points, ranking 14th in the Big Ten. She also ranks among the top-15 in the conference in minutes (ninth, 34.8), field goal percentage (10th, 49.1%), assist-to-turnover ratio (10th, 1.4) and assists (14th, 3.5). Bell has increased her scoring 9.9 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, the 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 third on the team with 10.8 points, while second on the team with 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals. She ranks eighth in Big Ten in assists, while placing 12th 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 fourth in the league with a 1.9 a:to margin (46:24). More impressively, over the last nine games, she has 44 assists and just 20 turnovers (2.2 a:to). Thomas has done all of this, while playing 36.2 minutes, which is second in the conference.

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 five games, Mills is averaging 12.6 points and shooting 57.1% (24-for-42) from the field, including a 4-for-5 mark from the 3-point line in 22.2 minutes. She has also made 11 of her last 12 free throws over that stretch of games.

Junior Annalise Pickrel got her first career start in the opener vs. UT Arlington, and has proved in the first 10 games that she belongs in that role. The 6-3 forward is second on the team with 11.2 points, while dishing out 1.6 assists per game, and committing just four turnovers all year. Pickrel has already topped her single-season high in points and assists. On Sunday vs. IPFW, Pickrel led MSU in scoring for the first time in her career.

More importantly, Pickrel has become a threat from behind the 3-point line. She is 22-for-56 (.393) from 3-point so far this season, after making only 19 in her first two seasons (59 games) and shooting 30.2%. Her 2.2 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 7.9 points, a team-best 7.6 rebounds (which is fifth in the Big Ten), 3.4 assists (15th in the conference) and 1.1 steals per game, while compiling a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio. Schiffauer is the only player in the Big Ten to rank among the top-15 in the conference in both rebounds and assists.

Her distribution of the ball has increase immensely over the last five games, averaging 4.4 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.

Schiffauer has posted back-to-back double-doubles, the first two in her career, over the last two games. At Dayton, she posted a season-high 12 points and a career-high tying 11 rebounds, while vs. IPFW, she tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds.

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 increased her playing time this season. So far this season, Hines is averaging 10.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in only 19.1 minutes, while shooting 53.0% from the field, which is sixth in the Big Ten. MSU is 8-0 when she reaches double-digit points in her career.

Sophomore Becca Mills and Jasmine Hines have combined to play the majority of the minutes at the center position. The two have combined for 20.0 points and 9.9 rebounds in 41.1 minutes.

The 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 42.7 per game, ahead of the rest of the nation by 2.3 points per game (Connecticut/South Carolina, 45.0). The Spartans are also fourth in field goal percentage defense (.301), fifth in fewest turnovers (12.1), seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3), ninth in fewest fouls (11.9), 10th in scoring margin (+24.9), 16th in rebound margin (+10.5), 19th in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.232), 28th in field goal percentage (.445) and 43rd in assists (15.7).

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 97-9 (91.5%).

In Coach Merchant's five seasons, the Spartans are 40-13 (75.5%) following a loss, after Sunday's win vs. IPFW.

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 16th in the NCAA with a +10.5 rebound margin. MSU has out-rebounded 56 of its last 67 opponents.

The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 65 of their last 66 games when leading with five minutes left, including an 18-1 mark last season and a 9-0 record so far in 2012-13. In Coach Merchant's tenure, Michigan State is 107-5 (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 51-6 (89.5%) over the last four seasons when attempting more free throws than their opponent, including a 8-1 record this season and a 12-3 mark last season.

Michigan State is 8-5 all-time on December 19 and 9-6 on December 20.



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