Spartans and Nittany Lions Begin Big Ten Play on Sunday
MSU was picked to finish third in the conference by both the media and coaches.
Dec. 20, 2008
Michigan State Spartans (7-4) at
Penn State Nittany Lions (5-5)
Date: Sunday, Dec. 21
Time: 12 p.m.
Location: State College, Pa.
Arena: Bryce Jordan Center
TV: Big Ten Network (Leah Secondo - play-by-play; Theresa Grentz - color)
Radio: WJIM 1240 AM (Rick Berkey - play-by-play)
Internet: Live Stats and Audio at www.msuspartans.com
In Big Ten Openers
Michigan State is 12-15 all-time in Big Ten openers and are 11-16 all-time in their first conference road game. The Spartans have faced Penn State in three conference openers, having lost all three (1991-92, 1994-95 and 1995-96). Last season, MSU lost at home against Minnesota, 74-63), but had won its previous four openers.
Statistically Savvy (NCAA Edition)
Entering the week, the Spartans were among the nation's top-50 in seven major statistical categories, including being in the top 25 in five. MSU was sixth in blocked shots (6.7), 10th in field goal percentage defense (33.1%), 13th in rebound margin (+12.2), and 24th field goal percentage (45.4%) and assists (16.8). In addition, the Spartans are 26th in scoring margin (+16.6) and 38th in scoring offense (73.6).
Individually, junior Allyssa DeHaan is fourth in the country in blocked shots with 3.7 per game.
Statistically Savvy (Big Ten Edition)
Michigan State is among the Big Ten leaders in almost every statistical category. The Spartans are first in scoring margin (+17.8), field goal percentage (45.7%), field goal percentage defense (32.9%), rebounds (44.5), rebounds allowed (33.0), rebound margin (+11.5), offensive rebounds (15.18), blocked shots (6.82) and 3-pt. fg defense (28.4%). They are also second in scoring offense (73.4), scoring defense (55.5) and assists (16.82), third in turnovers forced (19.8) and fourth in steals (9.09).
Junior Allyssa DeHaan is first in the Big Ten in blocks with 3.91. Also in the conference's top-10 is junior Mandy Piechowski (fourth in 3-point field goal percentage - 46.9%), redshirt junior Aisha Jefferson, (eighth with 14.1 points per game), redshirt freshman Lykendra Johnson and freshman Courtney Schiffauer (tied for seventh with a 79.3 free throw percentage), sophomore Kalisha Keane (10th with 1.91 steals per game) and redshirt senior Mia Johnson (10th with a 36.4 3-point field goal percentage).
Spartans' Dynamic Duo
In their one-plus year on the court together, the Spartans know good things will happen when redshirt junior Aisha Jefferson and Allyssa DeHaan are both playing well. When both score in double-figures, MSU holds a 14-1 record, including a 4-0 mark so far this season.
DeHaan's scoring has shown to be a deciding factor in most Spartan games. When she reaches double-digits, Michigan State is 5-0 this season and are 41-14 in her career. Meanwhile, MSU is 24-10 when Jefferson tallies double-figures, including a 5-3 mark in 2008-09.
Holding Down the Opposition (First Half Edition)
The Spartans have been especially stingy in the first half of each game this season. The 11 non-conference opponents have combined for only 254 points (23.1 per game).
MSU allowed only 12 points in the first half against Delaware State on Dec. 18 and 13 points to Detroit on Nov. 19. The 12 points against the Lady Hornets tied the previous school record for a first half, set on Jan. 16, 2003 against Indiana.
Defense in the Post
The Michigan State post defenders have done a solid job of late, keeping the opposition below its season averages. Over the last eight games, the starting post players have been held below their combined season scoring averages. Most notably, All-America candidate Ta'Shia Phillips of Xavier (14.2 ppg) was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting and Old Dominion's combo of Jessica Canady and Tiffany Green (32.3 ppg) managed only 19 points. For the season, the starting post players have combined to average only 12.7 points per game against the Spartans.
Shot Blocking Queen
In 28 minutes off the bench at Xavier, junior Allyssa DeHaan tied her own program single-game record with nine blocks, a mark she had previously set on two occasions (Dec. 8, 2007 at Indiana State and Dec. 28, 2006 vs. Indiana). DeHaan now holds the top 10 single-game block totals in MSU history. The nine blocks are also tied for the most in a single game in the country this season.
DeHaan followed the performace up with six blocks in only 18 minutes against Delaware State. The 15 blocks over two games, tied her career high for back-to-back games.
On this Date
Michigan State is 7-4 all-time on December 21, but have won seven of its last eight.
Sophomore Brittney Thomas returned to the rotation in the game against Detroit (Nov. 19), after missing the first two games with a broken right hand. Since she has been back, her impact on the floor has been noticeable. With Thomas on the court, the Spartans have outscored their opponents by 96 points (447-351), but when she is sitting, MSU hold only a three point advantage (171-168).
Spark From Behind the Arc
Junior Mandy Piechowski has been a spark for the Spartans from long range this season. Piechowski's career day at Xavier (15 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range) kept MSU in the game and her on the floor for a season-best 27 minutes. This season, she leads the team and is fourth in the Big Ten, shooting 46.9% (15-of-32) from behind the arc. Entering this season, Piechowski had only hit 22 3-pointers and shot 27.2% from long range in 44 career games.
Piechowski's success has come despite playing only 13.7 minutes per game. In the five games this season where she has played over 15 minutes, she is averaging 9.4 points and 3.2 assists, while shooting 59.1% (13-of-22) from 3-point range. In the other six games, she is averaging only 1.0 points and 1.0 assists, while shooting 20.0% (2-of-10) from three.
DeHaan Reaches Milestone...
Junior Allyssa DeHaan became the program's 19th 1,000-point scorer with a basket with 14:48 left in the second half against Quinnipiac. DeHaan has moved into 17th on the program's all-time scoring list with 1,046 points. She also was the fifth fastest to the milestone, needing only 75 games (Mary Kay Itnyre - 65 games, Kris Emerson - 72, Lindsay Bowen - 73, Kisha Kelley - 74).
...And Approaches Another
Already the school's all-time block leader, DeHaan is only 46 blocks shy of the Big Ten career mark. She is currently third all-time with 338, trailing only Ohio State's Jessica Davenport (384) and Michigan's Trish Andrew (367). With her four blocks against Stony Brook (Nov. 16), she became the fastest in conference history to reach the 300-block plateau, needing only 72 games. Nationally, DeHaan is 142 blocks shy of the NCAA record.
The Spartans currently have a RPI of 76 according to CollegeRPI.com, with the Big Ten Conference ranking third in the nation as a whole. MSU is eighth in the conference, trailing Wisconsin (7), Ohio State (12), Michigan (22), Iowa (33), Indiana (43), Minnesota (47) and Purdue (56). Michigan State's strength of schedule is 92nd.
About Penn State
Penn State, who was picked to finish ninth in the Big Ten by both the coaches and media, finished its non-conference schedule with an even 5-5 record, including a 4-1 mark at home. Three of PSU's losses have come against teams currently in the top 25, including a four point neutral site loss to current No. 4/3 Texas A&M and a 14-point loss against No. 1 Connecticut. The Spartans and Nittany Lions have played one common opponent - Stony Brook; MSU won 73-42 and PSU won 97-58.
Penn State currently sits in the middle of the pack in the majority of the Big Ten statistically categories. They are tied for fifth with 69.5 points per game, while allowing 61.2 points, 10th in the conference. PSU is tied for sixth with a 42.4 field goal percentage, but are last in the Big Ten with a 62.4 free throw percentage. The Nittany Lions hold a slight edge in rebounding over their opponents (40.3-39.8), but their 39.8 rebounding defense is last in the league. Lastly, PSU is second in the Big Ten with 9.90 steals per game and with a +2.5 turnover margin.
Junior Tyra Grant leads the team and is second in the Big Ten averaging 19.2 points, while senior Brianne O'Rourke is 14th with 11.7 per game. O'Rourke is also tied for third in the conference with 5.20 assists per game and with a 1.58 assist to turnover ratio. Sophomore Janessa Wolff leads the team with 6.3 rebounds per game, good for 12th in the Big Ten, and 1.90 blocks, which is fourth in the conference.
Against the Nittany Lions
Michigan State trails the all-time series, 23-7, but have won four of the last six. The Spartans won the last meeting, a 66-50 decision at the Bryce Jordan Center, their first win in State College in 14 attempts. In the first meeting of last season against each other, PSU came out on top 69-57 at Breslin Center.