MSU Takes on Rutgers in Home B1G Opener
The Spartans and the Scarlet Knights meet for the only regular-season meeting.
|Michigan State (11-3, 1-0 B1G) vs. Rutgers (13-2, 1-0 B1G)|
|Date||Sunday, Dec. 31|
|Time||4 p.m. ET|
|Location||East Lansing, Mich. | Breslin Center | Bag Policy|
|Tickets||Click To Purchase|
|Radio||Spartan Sports Network | WJIM-AM 1240|
|Game Notes||Michigan State | Rutgers|
|Statistics||Michigan State | Rutgers|
|Promotions||Ticket from MSU men's game good for MSU women's game|
|Social Media||@MSU_WBasketball | Facebook | Instagram|
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State will conclude the 2017 portion of the season with a New Year’s Eve battle with Rutgers at 4 p.m. in its Big Ten home opener. The game is the last of five doubleheaders with the MSU men’s basketball team. The Spartan men will open action at 12 p.m., while the women will tipoff at 4 p.m. on BTN Plus. Michigan State is 23-12 in home Big Ten openers in 35 years in the league. Last season, the Spartans collected a New Year’s Day win over Illinois, 71-47.
• Michigan State is on a six-game winning streak; its previous longest winning streak this season was a four-game win streak as the Spartans opened 4-0. This is the longest winning streak for Michigan State since winning six from Feb. 18-March 5, 2016. That streak began with a win at Rutgers.
• Junior forward Jenna Allen added 14 points against Indiana on Dec. 28. She has scored in double-digits for five-straight games. Both Allen and senior guard Branndais Agee have scored in double figures eight times this season, which leads the team. Both redshirt-sophomore guard Shay Colley and freshman forward Sidney Cooks have scored in double figures six times.
• During the Spartans’ current six-game five different players are averaging in double figures, led by 14.0 ppg from Jenna Allen. Branndais Agee (12.8 ppg), Shay Colley (11.8 ppg), Sidney Cooks (10.8 ppg) and Taya Reimer (10.0 ppg) have all come on strong during the current the winning streak. The Spartans have on games by a 20.5 scoring margin in the last six games.
• The starting lineup of Taryn McCutcheon, Shay Colley, Lexi Gussert, Sidney Cooks and Jenna Allen is now 5-0 this season.
BIG TEN OPENERS
Michigan State is 23-12 in home Big Ten openers in 35 years in the league. Last season, the Spartans collected a New Year’s Day win over Illinois, 71-47.
Michigan State is 18-18 all-time in Big Ten openers, having won its last five of its last seven ... Under Coach Merchant, the Spartans are 7-4 in Big Ten openers ... MSU earned a dominating 68-46 win over Indiana in Bloomington, 68-46 on Dec. 28 ... This was the first time since the 2011-12 season that the Spartans have opened B1G play with the Hoosiers. MSU captured that game in Bloomington, 63-49.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
Both Michigan State and Rutgers enter Sunday’s game riding lengthy winning streaks.
Michigan State has won a season-high six-straight games, heading into the Big Ten home opener. This is the longest winning streak for Michigan State since winning six from Feb. 18-March 5, 2016. That streak began with a win at Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights come into the meeting winning eight-straight. This streak is the longest since winning six in a row during the 2014 season.
Senior forward Taya Reimer has come on strong over the last three games. She has scored in double figures against No. 22 South Florida (12 points), Mississippi Valley State (11 points) and Indiana (12 points). Over the last three contests, she is averaging 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game off the bench. Only Jenna Allen (16.3 ppg)
and Branndais Agee (14.0 ppg) have been more productive over the last trio of games.
RISING THE CHARTS
Junior forward Jenna Allen has increased her scoring every season that she has been at Michigan State. This season, she is first in scoring, averaging 11.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. As a freshman, Allen scored 4.5 points in 34 games as a rookie. During her sophomore campaign, she averaged 6.9 ppg in an injury-plagued season.
CAREER NIGHT FOR COLLEY
Sophomore guard Shay Colley’s career-high 27 points against South Florida topped her previous career-best of 16 points against Robert Morris in the season-opener. It was Collley’s second-straight double-figure scoring outing and third in the last four games, along with her fifth of the season.
Colley’s 27 points was the second-highest by a Spartan this season, behind junior forward Jenna Allen’s 28-point outing at Notre Dame, and also marked the third time this season that an MSU player has scored 20+ points in a game, as along with Allen’s 28 points, senior forward Taya Reimer tallied 20 points against Oakland.
SCOUTING THE SCARLET KNIGHTS
Rutgers completed an eight-game homestand on December 28 with a 58-50 win over Purdue in the 2017-18 Big Ten opener and now hits the road for its first conference contest away from the RAC. The Scarlet Knights take their eight-game win streak, RU’s longest since winning six straight to end the 2014.
Legendary RU head coach C. Vivian Stringer is the fourth-winningest active DI coach in women’s basketball and one of five current active coaches among all divisions with over 900 career victories. She is sixth all-time in career wins among women’s basketball coaches.
With the return of Tyler Scaife this season RU is off to a hot start with a 13-2 overall record and 1-0 in B1G play. Scaife is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring averaging 21.3 ppg. She is also third in free throw percentage (.859). Ciani Pryor is seventh in the league steals with 2.2 spg.
As a team, RU is scoring 69.8 points per game, while allowing only 54.7, which is the fewest in the conference.
LAST TIME VS. RUTGERS
Michigan State women’s basketball had its two-game winning streak halted with a 62-58 loss to Rutgers at the RAC on Jan. 14, 2017.
With 48 seconds remaining, Kandiss Barber of Rutgers connected with a fastbreak layup to put the Scarlet Knights up 57-56. The Spartans re-took the lead with 37 seconds to play on a pair of free throws by senior guard Tori Jankoska that gave MSU the slight edge, 58-57.
Rutgers scored the final five points of the game to seal the 62-58 win. The Scarlet Knights out-scored MSU, 21-13, in the final 10 minutes of the game, including 15-2 over the final five minutes.
Once again, Jankoska led the Spartans with 20 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Senior forward Taya Reimer added eight points, while junior guard Lexi Gussert and sophomore forward Jenna Allen both scored seven points off the bench.
Rutgers was led by 20 points from Shrita Parker, who also added seven rebounds. Barber added 15 points.
Michigan State leads the overall series with Rutgers, 4-3, including going 3-1 in East Lansing. Last
season the teams met just once with the Scarlet Knights coming away with a 62-58 win in Piscataway. New Jersey. During the 2015-16 season, the teams met twice with the Spartans coming away with a pair of wins. On the road, MSU came from behind to earn a 62-58 victory. In East Lansing, the Spartans stopped the Scarlet Knights, 59-48. Michigan State is 1-2 against Rutgers on the road.
Senior forward Kennedy Johnson is the only Spartan hailing from the Garden State. She is a native of Galloway, New Jersey and has played well against the Scarlet Knights scoring a then-career-high 11 points at Rutgers in 2016. This season, she already has two double-figure scoring games, including a career-high 18 against College of Charleston on Nov. 19. She is averaging a career-high 4.5 ppg this season.
CAREER VS. THE SCARLET KNIGHTS
Redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee has played three career games against Rutgers, averaging 9.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. She scored 10 points in a 59-48 win in East Lansing in 2016. Later that year, she added 12 in a 70-67 win at Rutgers.
Senior forward Kennedy Johnson has averaged 3.8 points in four contests against the Scarlet Knights. The Galloway, New Jersey, native scored a then-career-high 11 points in MSU’s come-from-behind win in 2016. Senior Lexi Gussert is averaging 6.3 ppg in three career games against Rutgers.
The Big Ten ranks fourth in Tuesday’s Collegiate Basketball News conference RPI index (found at
RPIratings.com). Nine Big Ten schools are among the top 70 in the team RPI rankings as noted by NCAA.com and Collegiate Basketball News. Rutgers leads the group at No. 6, followed by No. 8 Ohio State and No. 24 Iowa. Maryland is next at No. 41, with Michigan State at No. 42, Michigan at No. 47, Minnesota at No. 56, Purdue at No. 57 and Penn State at No. 67.
Against East Tennessee State on Dec. 16, Michigan State set a new school record with 15 blocks. The previous record was 13 against Indiana on Dec. 28, 2006. Senior forward Taya Reimer and senior guard Branndais Agee added four blocks each, while freshman forward Sidney Cooks and sophomore forward Victoria Gaines swatted two apiece. Michigan State’s previous high this season was seven blocks against Oakland on Nov. 13.
REACHING A MILESTONE
Senior forward Taya Reimer reached a milestone, passing the 1,000-career point plateau against UConn on Nov. 25. Between her two seasons at Notre Dame and her two at Michigan State, she now has 1,075 career points. She is currently fifth in scoring for the Spartans, averaging 9.6 points per game.
BOUNCE BACK ABILITY
In Coach Merchant’s first 11 seasons, the Spartans are 70-26 (72.9%) following a loss.
TAKING ON THE BEST
In the first nine games of the season, the Spartans have taken on both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. MSU has already faced top-ranked UConn and took on No. 2 Notre Dame on Dec. 6. Last season, Michigan State faced both No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Maryland in one season. The Spartans have never faced the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country in the same season.
STINGY AT HOME
Against Rhode Island on Dec. 9, the 18 first-half points were the fewest allowed this season by the Spartans. MSU allowed only 22 points against Robert Morris and 19 against Quinnipiac. The Spartans held the Rams to just 38 points, the lowest allowed for an opponent this season. The three fourth-quarter points were fewest ever in a quarter.
Michigan State has been dominating in the fourth quarter at home, out-scoring its opponents, 129-71 in the final 10 minutes. Overall at home, MSU has scored 523 points, while allowing only 319. Overall MSU is 6-0 at home this season.
AROUND THE BIG TEN
Freshman Sidney Cooks is third on the team in scoring, she also is 12th in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (.538). Junior Jenna Allen has entered the scoring leaders in the Big Ten, standing tied for 30th in scoring with 11.5 ppg.
Sophomore Taryn McCutcheon is second in assists behind Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell, averaging 5.5 apg. She tied a career high with 12 against Notre Dame on Dec. 6 and added 10 assists in overtime against ETSU on Dec. 16. Redshirt-sophomore guard Shay Colley is 16th in assists with 3.7 per game. Colley is also tied for fifth in the B1G in steals, averaging 2.3 spg.
MSU is third in the league assists, averaging 18.6 apg. Iowa is first in the conference in assists with 23.0 apg. Michigan State is also first in rebound margin (+10.8) and third in steals (10.1).
AROUND THE NATION
The Spartans are 10th in the nation in assists with 260 and 16th in assists per game, averaging 18.6. Michigan State is also 28th in the nation in rebounds per game (43.7)and 14th in rebound margin (+10.8). This week, Taryn McCutcheon is 35th in the nation in assists per game (5.5 apg).
Redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee became the 26th MSU women’s basketball player to reach 1,000 points with 10 points against No. 1 UConn on Nov. 25. Agee started the week by scoring a season-high 17 points in her hometown against Detroit, bringing her career point total to 991 and going over 1,000 against UConn. She now has 1,068 career points in the Green and White. Agee is averaging 11.0 points through the first 14 games of the season, which is second on the team. Tori Jankoska was the last Spartan to reach 1,000 points doing so on Nov. 27, 2015.
CLOSING IT OUT
The Spartans have been extremely effective closing out games over the last couple years, winning 168 of their last 174 games (.966) when leading with five minutes left, including 119 of their last 126. In Coach Merchant’s tenure, Michigan State is 203-11 (.949) when holding a lead with five minutes left. This season, the Spartans are 11-0.
FANS CONTINUE TO PACK THE BRESLIN
Michigan State women’s basketball continues to pack the Breslin Center, finishing the 2016-17 season ninth in the nation and first in the Big Ten home attendance. The Spartans averaged 6,011 fans in 14 home games this season. MSU had a total of 84,152 fans pass through the gates. This is the 13th-straight season that the Spartans have been ranked in the top 15 nationally in attendance. MSU has had a total attendance of at least 80,000 since 2005-06.
This season, Michigan State is 15th in attendance, averaging 5,017 fans per game. They are fourth in the Big Ten behind Purdue (5,710), Ohio State (5,517) and Maryland (5,249).
LAST TIME OUT
Michigan State women’s basketball captured its Big Ten opener with a convincing, 68-46, win over Indiana in Bloomington on Thursday. MSU improves to 18-18 in B1G openers.
The Spartans have now won a season-high six-straight games, improving to 11-3 overall and 1-0 in league action. Indiana falls to 7-7 overall and 0-1 in Big Ten play. This was the Spartans first win in Bloomington since 2013.
Michigan State was led by a season-high 21 points from redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee. She also added six boards. Junior center Jenna Allen, a native of nearby Bedford, Indiana, added 14 points and five boards, while fellow Indiana native senior forward Taya Reimer scored 12.
AGEE NAMED TO WATCH LIST
Michigan State redshirt-senior Branndais Agee was named to the watch list for the inaugural Cheryl Miller Award, which will be awarded to the top small forward women’s basketball; it was announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
She is one of five players from the Big Ten to be named to the watch list along with Indiana’s Amanda Cahill, Maryland’s Brianna Fraser, Ohio State’s Stephanie Mavunga and Wisconsin’s Cayla McMorris. Agee has already garnered preseason All-Big Ten honors by the coaches. Last season, Agee earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors along with fellow senior Taya Reimer and sophomore Taryn McCutcheon.
IN THE MONTH OF DECEMBER
The Spartans improved to 175-96 (.646) all-time in the month of December. Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 58-26 (.690) in the 12th month of the calendar year. The Spartans have won 30 of their last 43 games in December.
The Michigan State Athletics Department officially opened the Gilbert Pavilion and the Tom Izzo Hall of History on Friday afternoon in a ceremony at the Breslin Center.
The addition features the Tom Izzo Hall of History features a locker room and interactive areas that enhance the fan experience for the more than 500,000 people attending events each year.
The Spartans welcome to their staff three former Michigan State players. Former Big Ten Player of the Year Kalisha Keane and All-Big Ten honorees Jasmine Hines and Annalise Pickrel are all graduate assistants with the Spartans this season.
Michigan State will conclude its two-game homestand, hosting Northwestern on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. The Spartans will then begin a three-game road swing at Minnesota on Sunday, Jan. 7 at 4 p.m.
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. Overall, MSU has scored at least 70 points nine times overall this season. MSU has won 115 of its last 125 games when scoring at least 70 points, and MSU is 132-17 under head coach Suzy Merchant when hanging at least 70 points on the scoreboard. This year, MSU is 9-0 when scoring at least 70.
AGAINST RANKED OPPONENTS
Under Coach Merchant, Michigan State is 28-48 against ranked teams, including 18-14 at home, 6-19 on the road and 4-15 on a neutral court. As a ranked team against fellow ranked team, MSU is 15-22 versus ranked teams. This season, MSU is 1-2 against ranked teams with a loss to No. 1 UConn, 96-62 and a defeat against Notre Dame, 90-59. MSU defeated No. 22 South Florida, 83-73, on Dec. 21.
PK80 INVITATIONAL RECAP
Michigan State celebrated Thanksgiving weekend at the PK80 Invitational in honor of Phil Knight’s 80th birthday. The Spartans attended a Nike event before watching the MSU men’s team take on DePaul on Thanksgiving day. Michigan State fell to No. 1 UConn, 96-62, on Saturday, Nov. 25 in Eugene at Matthew Knight Arena. In the other game, Oregon defeated Oklahoma.
AGEE EARNS PRESEASON HONOR
The Big Ten Conference released the Preseason Coaches and Media Polls, in addition to the 10-member preseason All-Big Ten team on Monday. Michigan State redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten team by the coaches. Reigning Big Ten co-champion Ohio State, which was the No. 1 pick in both the coaches and the media poll. Ohio State’s Kelsey Mitchell was named Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year in both polls.
MEET THE 2018-19 SIGNEES
Michigan State women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant announced the signing of three National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, including Nia Clouden (Owing Mills, Maryland/St. Frances), Tory Ozment (Buford, Georgia/Buford) and Kayla Belles (Ithaca, Michigan/Ithaca).
Clouden is a 5-8 point guard who plays for head coach Jerome Shelton at St. Frances Academy. She is currently ranked No. 43 overall and No. 13 at her position by ESPN HoopGurlz. Last March, Clouden was named Maryland Gatorade Girls Basketball Player of the Year, becoming the third Baltimore-area player to win the award in 11 years. She was also the USA Today Maryland Player of the Year last season. She is a two-time captain, who averaged 14.2 points and 4.7 assists per game as a junior. Last season, the Panthers captured their second-straight IAAM Championship. St. Frances also advanced to the semifinals of the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals, falling in overtime. Clouden has also earned first-team Baltimore Sun honor in both 2016 and 2017.
Ozment is a 6-1 guard/forward who plays for head coach Gene Durden at Buford High School. Durden has captured five state championships during time at Buford. She is currently ranked No. 14 at her position by ESPN HoopGurlz. Last season, Ozment was named the AAAAA State Player of the Year as well as being named to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Associations All-State squad. Ozment earned Atlanta Tipoff Club and Atlanta Journal Constitution All-Metro team. Last season, she averaged 13.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, leading Buford on a run to the Class AAAAA State Championship. As a sophomore, she guided Buford to the AAAA Final Four, averaging 11.1 points and 3.5 assists per game.
Belles is a 6-3 forward who plays for head coach Ty Warczinksy at Ithaca High School. As a junior, Belles averaged 19.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocked shots and 2.6 steals per game, earning Associated Press Class B all-state honors. She led the Yellowjackets to three-straight Tri-Valley Conference West Division titles, which included a run to the Class C Final Four during her sophomore campaign. She garnered first-team all-state honors three-straight seasons, averaging a double-double the last two seasons. She is a multi-sport athlete, who earned all-state honors in both basketball and volleyball. Belles will miss her senior year of high school after tearing her ACL over the summer.
BIG TEN/ACC CHALLENGE
Michigan State played in the 11th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge, falling to Miami, 67-57. The ACC captured this year’s Challenge title by a 10-4 count. Last season, Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State and Purdue registered wins for the Big Ten. Michigan State lost to Syracuse in the Carrier Dome last season, 75-64. Overall, MSU is 5-6 in the Challenge.
B1G/ACC Challenge History
2017 - Miami 67, MSU 57
2016 - Syracuse 75, MSU 64
2015 - Louisville 85, MSU 78
2014 - MSU 79, Georgia Tech 73 (OT)
2013 - Florida State 60, MSU 58
2012 - MSU 68, N.C. State 51
2011 - Miami 76, MSU 60
2010 - MSU 72, Florida State 64
2009 - MSU 72, North Carolina 66
2008 - Georgia Tech 57, MSU 50
2007 - MSU 68, Clemson 51
Bold = home games