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Spartans Begin Quest to Defend Big Ten Title

Lykendra Johnson helped the Spartans to their first outright Big Ten championship last season.

Dec. 29, 2011

Michigan State (8-5, 0-0) at Indiana (5-8, 0-0)
 Date Friday, Dec. 30
 Time 6 p.m. ET
 Location Bloomington, Ind. | Assembly Hall
 Television Big Ten Network
Dan Kelly (play-by-play); Lisa Stone (analyst)
 Radio WVFN 730AM
Rick Berkey (play-by-play)
Spartan Sports Network (Listen Live)
 Internet Coverage GameTracker
 Game Notes Michigan State | Indiana
 Statistics Michigan State (html | pdf) | Indiana
 Social Media @MSU_wbasketball   |  Facebook

The Hoosiers enter conference play with a 5-8 record and are coming off a pair of wins. Indiana is 10th in the league in both points scored (61.4) and points allowed (64.2). Jasmine McGhee leads the Hoosiers in points (14.2), while Aulani Sinclair is second with 12.1 points. Andrea Newbauer is top-10 in the conference with 3.8 assists a game. Over the past two games, Quaneisha McCurty is averaging 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.5 blocks.

Michigan State leads the all-time series 38-23 against Indiana. The Spartans are 18-11 in Bloomington, having won the last eight trips to Assembly Hall. In fact, the road team has won the last eight meetings between the two teams.

Michigan State is 14-16 all-time in Big Ten openers. The Spartans are only 4-9 when their first conference game has been on the road. It is the ninth time that MSU has faced IU in its opener, posting a 3-5 in the previous matchups. Under Coach Merchant, the Spartans are 2-2 in Big Ten openers and 2-2 in their first conference road game.

Friday night's game will mark the second game for the Spartans on the Big Ten Network this season. MSU is 28-15 all-time on BTN.

Michigan State went 13-3 in conference play last year and earned its first outright Big Ten regular season title, winning the conference by two games over Penn State. MSU also shared the Big Ten Regular Season Championship in 1997 and 2005. MSU has won 23 of its last 27 Big Ten regular season games over the past two seasons.

The Spartans have won at least 10 Big Ten games in nine straight seasons. It is tied for the longest active streak in the conference with Ohio State. MSU is 106-44 (70.7%) in conference play over the last nine seasons.

Michigan State has done a great job of bouncing back after a loss over the last couple seasons, winning its last 12 games in-season after a defeat. With their win vs. Colorado State last Tuesday, the Spartans have not lost back-to-back games in a season since Jan. 2010. In Coach Merchant's four seasons, the Spartans are 35-9 (79.5%) following a loss.

A common theme between Michigan State's wins and losses has been its ability to get to the free throw line. The Spartans are 8-0 this season when attempting at least 12 free throws, but have attempted 11 of fewer in their three losses. In the wins, MSU has shot 163 free throws (20.4 a game), in comparison to 9.0 a game in the losses (45 total).

With a 3-pointer early in the first half (16:23) at Texas on Dec. 10, Lykendra Johnson became the 22nd Spartan in program history to surpass 1,000 career points. She has now totaled 1,020 points in her MSU career, good for 21st place. Johnson also is now one of five Spartans to have totaled at least 1,000 points and 800 rebounds, joining Liz Shimek, Kristen Rasmussen, Kris Emerson and Allyssa DeHaan.

Currently she is among the program's leaders in many statistical categories, ranking second all-time in offensive rebounds (347), fourth in blocks (125), fifth in rebounds (870), 12th in free throws made (254), 13th with 185 steals and 16th with 54 3-point field goals. Johnson is also 11th in career starts (97) 19th with 2,862 minutes played and 20th with 112 games played.

Senior Lykendra Johnson entered the season with the reputation as one of the best rebounders in the nation, and she has lived up to that billing early in the 2011-12 campaign. She currently leads the Big Ten with 9.7 rebounds a game, despite playing just 27.0 minutes a game. She also leads the conference in offensive rebounds with 3.3 and is third in the league lead with four double-doubles.

Johnson moved into the top-10 on the MSU career rebounding list last season and is currently fifth with 870 rebounds. In terms of offensive rebounds, she is at an even quicker pace up the Spartan all-time charts. Since the stat began being recorded in 1986-87, Johnson has the second-most offensive rebounds all-time (347) and her 3.1 a game average is second to Liz Shimek (3.4).

Earlier this season she set a career-high with 20 on Nov. 15 vs. IPFW. Those 20 rebounds were the seventh most ever by a Spartan and the most since Kristen Rasmussen grabbed 20 on Dec. 30, 1997. They are also the most in the Big Ten since Penn State's Nikki Greene had 20 on Jan. 23, 2011.

Johnson's value on the floor for the Spartans is undeniable. So far this season, MSU is +143 with her on the court, but are -7 when she is sitting on the bench. In Big Ten games last year, the Spartans were +187 with Johnson on the floor, but -49 when she was on the bench.

Freshman point guard Kiana Johnson started the first four games for the Spartans, but lost her starting spot for four games, before regaining the honor for the last five contests. During her time coming off the bench, Johnson struggled, averaging just 4.3 points and 2.3 assists (compared to 2.3 turnovers), while shooting 26.1% from the field. Since returning to the starting five, she is averaging 6.8 points, 4.4 assists (compared to only 2.0 turnovers) and 3.2 steals, while shooting 41.7%. In those five games, MSU is +58 with her on the floor, but have been -25 with her on the bench.

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 45-4 (91.8%), including winning their last 28 games, while when they hold opponents to 60 points or less, their record is 80-8 (90.9%).

The Spartans have relished playing extra time over the past nine seasons. With the overtime win over Eastern Michigan (Dec. 3), Michigan State has won 15th straight overtime games, dating back to the 2003-04 season. The streak is the longest such run among Big Ten schools. Surprisingly, only three of the 15 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.

300 AND 100
With the win over Oakland on Nov. 27, head coach Suzy Merchant became the fastest head coach to 100 wins as a Spartan. In her five seasons, she has posted a 103-46 (.691) record since her arrival prior to the 2007-08 season. Both Karen Langeland and Joanne P. McCallie needed 155 games to win 100, while Merchant accomplished the feat in 143 games.

Coach Merchant claimed her 300th career victory on Nov. 22 at Milwaukee. All-time, Merchant is 304-166 (.647) in her 17 years as a head coach, including stops at Eastern Michigan (1998-07) and Saginaw Valley State (1995-98). Merchant is facing her former school for the first time.

Senior Porsche Poole has increased her scoring average in each of her seasons at MSU, averaging 3.8 as a freshman, 4.6 as a sophomore and 6.1 last season. Through 13 games this season, she leads the team with 11.3 points per game, which is among the top-25 in the Big Ten. Poole has scored in double-figures in eight games, including five-straight at one point, the longest stretch of her career.

Poole has also done a great job distributing the ball, ranking second on the team and 14th in the Big Ten with 3.2 assists per game. She already has 42 assists this season, setting a new career high total. Poole entered the season with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio (109-to-147), but this season has done a great job taking care of the ball, ranking seventh in the Big Ten with a 1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio (42-to-28).

Senior Porsche Poole has made 43 of her last 48 (89.6%) free throw attempts, dating back to last season. She had an 18 consecutive made streak snapped on Dec. 3, after previously having a streak of 21-straight snapped earlier this season. The 21 in a row stretch was tied for the ninth longest in MSU history. Currently, Poole is first on the team and eighth in the Big Ten in free throw percentage (85.3%). Oddly enough, she entered this season as only a career 61.2% free throw shooter.

Freshman Becca Mills also has a significant consecutive made free throw streak, having made her last 14 attempts. For the season, she is shooting 84.0% (21-of-25) from the line.

The Spartans are off to a positive start on the boards early in the 2011-12 season. Through the first 13 games, MSU is second in the Big Ten and top-25 in the country in rebound margin (+8.8). The Spartans also lead the Big Ten in both rebound percentage categories, grabbing 40.4% of all offensive rebound opportunities and 71.4% of all defensive rebound chances. Two Spartans rank among the top-11 in the conference individually with senior Lykendra Johnson leading the Big Ten with 9.7 a game and freshman Becca Mills is 11th with 6.4. Johnson also leads the conference with 3.3 offensive boards, while Mills is seventh with 2.6.

MSU has out-rebounded 35 of its last 39 opponents dating back to last season, and was outrebounded for the first time this season at Texas.

Last season, Michigan State led the Big Ten in rebound margin, offensive rebounds and both rebound percentage categories. MSU was +8-4 in rebound margin, which was also ninth in the nation and broke the school's single-season record. The Spartans also topped the league with 15.5 offensive rebounds a game, which tied the previous single-season record (2005-06).

Michigan State is 9-13 all-time on December 30.



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