Blocked Shots

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Although Michigan State came up short in its quest for the WNIT Championship in the title game against Marquette, the Spartans made great strides during the postseason with four victories and completed the year on a positive note. Overall, MSU went 23-14, tying for the fourth winningest season in school history.

Here's a look at some of the accomplishments of this year's team:

• Michigan State won more games (23) than any other Big Ten team this season.
• Coach Suzy Merchant tied her career high with 23 wins this season. The 23 wins tie for the most victories by a first-year Spartan basketball coach, men's or women's, in MSU history. It marked her fifth career 20-win season.
• MSU recorded 20 wins for the fifth straight year.
• The Spartans closed the season winning 10 of their last 13 games.
• MSU advanced to its first-ever WNIT Championship Game. The Green and White defeated Bowling Green, Kansas, Michigan and North Carolina State en route to reaching the finals.
• The Spartans made the postseason for the seventh straight year.
• MSU has won more postseason games (13) the past five years than any team in the Big Ten.
• The Spartans have won a postseason game five consecutive years, the second-longest active streak in the Big Ten (longest: Purdue). • Michigan State was 10-1 in games decided by five points or less.


• MSU is one of two teams in the Big Ten, along with Ohio State, to win 20 games the past five years.
• Michigan State finished the regular season ranked 10th nationally in attendance, marking the third straight year MSU has ranked in the top 10.
• Michigan State featured the youngest team in the Big Ten this season. Overall, MSU's 12 active players consisted of nine freshmen and sophomores, the most underclassmen of any team in the Big Ten.
• MSU finished the Big Ten season 10-8, marking the sixth straight season it has won 10 or more games during the conference season.
• MSU defeated five NCAA Tournament teams (Kansas State, Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota).

And with the title of this blog being named "Blocked Shots", we must mention the outstanding season by Allyssa DeHaan. She became just the seventh Spartan to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors and scored 531 points, fourth most in an MSU season. But on the defensive end she was even more of a presence, breaking her own Big Ten record for blocks in a season with 150. That mark ties for the fifth-most blocks in NCAA single-season history. Her 145 blocks she collected as a freshman remain eighth most. All in all, DeHaan has an astounding 295 blocks in two seasons, and will likely break the Big Ten career blocks record next season, which currently sits at 384 by Ohio State's Jessica Davenport. DeHaan ranked second in the nation in blocks in 2007-08, just six behind freshman Louelle Tomlinson of Saint Mary's, who set an NCAA record with 156 blocks her first season.

The great finish to the year has everyone in the program excited about the upcoming 2008-09 season. The Spartans will return 10 letterwinners and all five starters next season and will lose just two players from the 2007-08 roster. In addition, Aisha Jefferson will be back in the lineup after receiving a medical redshirt year in 2007-08. Here's a look at some recent articles on the promise of the '08-09 season:

Future Bright for MSU women's hoops - Grand Rapids Press
Late-season Run Will Pay Off for MSU - Lansing State Journal
MSU's Consistency Late Pleased Merchant - Lansing State Journal

Also a reminder to fans that the annual women's basketball banquet is set for this Sunday at 5 p.m. in the Kellogg Center. Check back to msuspartans.com next week to see the award winners from the banquet.


Friday, April 4, 2008

As the Spartans prepare for the WNIT championship game against Marquette tomorrow at the Breslin Center, just a quick note on tickets. As of Friday afternoon, more than 4,500 presale tickets have been sold. A big walk-up crowd is expected, so to avoid waiting in lines, fans can order and print tickets right here at msuspartans.com. Coach Merchant and the players have commented on how much the crowd has helped them during this postseason run, so come out and support the Spartans as they look to win a title Saturday afternoon!

"I don't think there's a better feeling than playing the (WNIT) games right here at the Breslin Center," said senior captain Alisa Wulff. "The atmosphere has been absolutely wonderful. I credit so many of our wins to the fact that the crowd rallies behind us during all of our close games. It really helps having a home-court advantage."

The Spartans, who have won seven straight at the Breslin Center, are looking to win their first-ever WNIT championship. The title game is set for 4 p.m. tip. For a full preview, check out MSU's game notes.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The calendar has turned to April, and the Spartans are still playing basketball. It must mean one thing - the team is winning, and winning in the postseason. Only eight teams in the country are left, and MSU is one of them. The Spartans have won nine of their past 11 games, including three in the WNIT, to advance to the semifinals tonight against North Carolina State at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center. The youthful Spartans - the youngest team in the Big Ten with nine freshman and sophomores - are gaining valuable postseason experience in pressure situations. It can only help the team next year as nearly everyone returns, in addition to two incoming recruits. And of course, a healthy Aisha Jefferson will make an immediate impact in the starting lineup. The postseason success this spring is providing Spartan fans a glimpse into a bright future.

Seniors Alisa Wulff and Courtney Davidson celebrate after defeating Michigan in the WNIT quarterfinals last Sunday.


The encouraging aspect of this late run is MSU's ability to win close games. The Spartans are an impressive 9-1 in games decided by five points or less, and three of those victories have arrived in the postseason (against Minnesota in the Big Ten Quarterfinals, and against Kansas and Michigan in the WNIT). Much of it has to do with free-throw shooting - MSU has made 80 percent of its attempts from the line in the last two minutes of games - and a lot has to do with defense. The Spartans are first in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to just 37 percent shooting from the field. And when the Spartans hold opponents to under 60 points, they are 15-2.

MSU will definitely need to show up defensively tonight against North Carolina State, who feature first-team All-ACC selection Khadijah Whittington. Whittington was the top rebounder in the ACC this season, averaging nearly 12 a game, and is just one of three players in conference history to compile 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals and 100 blocks.

The Wolfpack are led by legendary Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow, who is in her 33rd season at North Carolina State. Michigan State Athletics is encouraging fans to "Think Pink" for the game tonight as a tribute to Yow. Yow was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987, and is currently battling the disease for the third time. She is one of only six Division I head women's basketball mentors to achieve 700 career victories, as she is 729-336 in 37 years of coaching. Yow was also the head coach of the 1988 US Olympic Team that won the gold medal in Seoul.

If Michigan State beats North Carolina State tonight, just a reminder that the WNIT Championship game is set for Saturday, April 5 at 4 p.m. The location will be determined after the other semifinal matchup of the evening, which features Marquette at Colorado in Boulder, Colo., at 9 p.m. ET.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Michigan State's win over Bowling Green in the second round of the WNIT last Saturday was not only successful in the short term of getting to play another postseason game, it was also symbolic of the program's standing in the Big Ten. Consider the following:

- MSU has won a postseason game five straight years, the second longest active streak in the Big Ten (Purdue: 12).
- The Spartans have won 20 games five consecutive years, tied for Ohio State for the longest active streak in the conference.
- Michigan State has won 10 postseason games the past five years, most in the Big Ten (Purdue second with nine).

In addition, Suzy Merchant became just the second coach in MSU basketball history - men's side included - to win 20 games in her first season in East Lansing. Karen Langeland went 23-6 her first season in 1976-77. No men's coach has ever won 20 games in his first season.


Freshman Kalisha Keane had an excellent game against the Falcons, scoring 20 points and grabbing six rebounds. Bowling Green coach Curt Miller told an interesting recruiting story about Keane in the post-game press conference. Check out the story, courtesy of the Lansing State Journal: BGSU's Miller Familiar with MSU's Keane

Now, it's on to the third round to face Kansas. Sixteen teams remain in the 48-team WNIT, and although MSU just missed the cut for an NCAA Tournament berth, the Spartans are one of only three teams in the conference still playing - Michigan and Illinois are also in the WNIT Third Round after wins on Monday night.

The Jayhawks are 17-15 overall and tied for 10th in the Big 12 with a 4-12 league record. However, Kansas played in the toughest rated RPI conference in the nation and had the 18th-most difficult schedule in the country, helping the Jayhawks to a respectable RPI of 55.

The Jayhawks defeated Evansville in the second round on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse - to see highlights from that game and to read up on Kansas, check out the Lawrence Journal World website at kusports.com.

KU started the season 11-2 and posted victories over Hartford, Indiana and Xavier. In fact, the Spartans and Jayhawks have played five common opponents - Hartford, Indiana, Oklahoma, Kansas State and Evansville - and have the same record against those teams: 3-3. KU posted wins over Hartford, Indiana and Evansville, lost twice to Kansas State and once to Oklahoma, while MSU split with Indiana, beat Kansas State and Evansville, and lost to Hartford and Oklahoma. What gives? Find out Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Although the Michigan State women's basketball team narrowly missed out on its sixth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, the good news for fans it that there is an opportunity to see the Spartans at home once again. MSU will host the second round of the WNIT Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Breslin Center against the winner of the Dayton-Bowling Green game, scheduled for Thursday night in Bowling Green, Ohio. Tickets are now on sale at msuspartans.com.

Fans might remember a sea of orange at last year's NCAA Tournament games in East Lansing when Bowling Green won games over Oklahoma State and Vanderbilt to advance to the Sweet 16. Whoever the matchup is against, it's going to be a tough game - the Flyers enter tonight's game at 25-8, while the Falcons of BGSU are 25-7.

Michigan State has had success in the WNIT, advancing to the semifinals in 2002 and the quarterfinals in both 1999 and 2000. Overall, MSU is 7-3 in its three previous appearances in the tournament. In the tournament's 10-year history, three Big Ten teams have won the event, including Penn State in 1998, Wisconsin in 2000 and Ohio State in 2001.

The Big Ten has the most teams in the 48-team WNIT with five. The tournament started last night and first-round action continues tonight. For more information on the WNIT and for a look at the complete bracket, check out the tournament's official website, www.womensnit.com.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"The waiting is the hardest part."

Not only the chorus to a great Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers song, but also the theme of the week for the Michigan State women's basketball team. Coach Merchant opened her press conference Monday with that statement, then later was asked what disco song (for if you don't know by now, Coach Merchant is a big fan of disco) would best describe the team this week. It was a no-brainer - "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees.

Yes, with a 19-13 overall record, the Spartans are surely living life on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament during this idle week, but a further breakdown of the numbers show MSU has a great case for an at-large bid. Others seem to think the same. The Spartans are projected to reach the NCAA Tournament in two brackets released earlier this week. MSU is listed as a No. 10 seed by Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com and a No. 12 seed by Charlie Crème of ESPN. While teams from other conferences battle for tournament championships, the Spartans have nothing on their minds except practice and the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, March 17 at 7 p.m. on ESPN.


Michigan State went 1-1 at the Big Ten Tournament last weekend in Indianapolis, advancing to the semifinals for the fifth straight year. Although MSU fell just short in reaching the title game with a loss to Illinois, the Spartans won perhaps their biggest game of the year in the quarterfinals over Minnesota. Facing a six-point deficit with less than four minutes remaining, MSU bounced back and rallied for the victory over the Golden Gophers. The win, Michigan State's 19th of the season, gave the Green and White another victory over a top 50 RPI team (Minnesota was ranked No. 29 in the RPI at the date of the game), a key factor in determining a team's chances for an at-large bid.

In addition, consider...
• MSU finished the season strong, winning seven of its last 10 games. That mark tied for the best 10-game finish in the Big Ten, along with Iowa.
• Michigan State owns an RPI of 49 (ncaa.org) and a schedule strength of 33 (collegerpi.com), ranking the third toughest schedule in the Big Ten.
• The Spartans have five wins over top 50 teams (Kansas State, Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue, Minnesota), which is ranked tied for second with Purdue for most in the Big Ten. Among conference teams, only Ohio State has more wins over top 50 teams with six. Iowa has three wins over top 50 teams and Minnesota has four.
• MSU has played eight top 50 teams and 12 games against top 50 opponents.
• The Spartans defeated Minnesota, ranked No. 36 in the RPI, in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
• Michigan State tied for fifth in the Big Ten standings with a 10-8 conference mark. The Spartans have won at least 10 conference games for six straight seasons.
• MSU quietly played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the Big Ten. The Spartans played the most non-conference road games of any team in the Big Ten with eight, and played four non-conference teams (LSU, Kansas State, Old Dominion, Oklahoma) ranked in the top 50 of the RPI.
• MSU's non-conference RPI was rated No. 24 by collegerpi.com. The Spartans played five regular-season conference champions outside the Big Ten, with two wins (Big 12 - Kansas State; SEC - LSU; Missouri Valley - Evansville; Colonial - Old Dominion; America East - Hartford).
• MSU defeated Kansas State, 68-65, in the Caribbean Challenge in Cancun, Mexico. The Wildcats, with an RPI of 17, won the Big 12 regular season title; the Big 12 was the top rated RPI conference in the country.
• The Spartans defeated Big Ten co-champions Iowa and Ohio State.
• MSU is 7-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (wins over Kansas State, Delaware State, Illinois, Michigan, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota; only loss at Hartford).

History is also on the side of the Spartans. Six of the past seven years, the NCAA has selected at least five Big Ten teams to the tournament. And in three of those years, a team chosen had a lower RPI than Michigan State. Entering the week, MSU had an RPI of 49, according to the official RPI ratings released by the NCAA March 10.

For now, no matter how much number crunching, it's a waiting game for the Spartans.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March Madness is in the air as the Spartans prepare this week for the Big Ten Tournament at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse. While it's officially spring break at MSU, the women's basketball team has been practicing every day this week, getting ready for Minnesota Friday night in the quarterfinals.

It was anyone's guess over the weekend as to where the Spartans would be seeded. Fortunately for MSU, everything fell into place for a first-round bye. The Spartans tied Indiana for fifth place in the Big Ten standings and the two teams split their season series, however, MSU owned a better record against the top two teams, Ohio State and Iowa, to earn the No. 5 seed. MSU went 2-1 against the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes, while the Hoosiers went 1-2. Overall, the bracket for the 2008 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament presented by Xbox 360 Live featured four ties among the top eight teams as the first, third, fifth and seventh seeds were decided by tiebreakers, in one of the closest league races in conference history.

Seniors Alisa Wulff (back) and Courtney Davidson (front) watch video highlights of their careers after MSU's win over Illinois on Senior Night.


MSU and Minnesota will play in the last tournament game of the day on Friday, at approximately 8:30 p.m. The first game of the session, which begins at 6 p.m., features top-seeded Ohio State against the winner of the first-round matchup between Wisconsin and Illinois. The Gophers and Spartans will tip 25 minutes after the completion of the 6 p.m. game. All of the tournament's first nine games will be televised on the Big Ten Network, while Sunday's championship game will be on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m.

Although MSU doesn't play until Friday night, for fans getting to Indianapolis early, be sure to check out the Big Ten Tournament pep rally on Thursday, held from 6-7 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Inn in Downtown Indianapolis at 10 East Market Street.

In the latest NCAA Tournament projections out earlier this week, Michigan State was a No. 11 seed in ESPN's Charlie Crème's bracketology and a No. 10 seed in Jerry Palm's bracket posted on collegerpi.com. The Spartans enter the Big Ten Tournament with an RPI of 47, according to the official RPI ratings released March 3 by the NCAA. MSU has a strong tournament resume with four wins over top 50 teams (Kansas State, Ohio State, Iowa, Purdue), a 7-3 record in its last 10 games, and a schedule ranked 34th-toughest in the nation.

The Spartans finished strong down the stretch, winning five of their last six games, possibly none bigger than the win over Illinois in the regular-season finale. The program honored seniors Courtney Davidson and Alisa Wulff prior to the game, and Davidson responded with the biggest game of her career. The Youngstown, Ohio, native scored a career-high 20 points, hit two 3-pointers, and went 6-for-7 from the free-throw line. Check out the photo gallery from Senior Night posted earlier on msuspartans.com.

And how about Allyssa DeHaan? The sophomore center became just the seventh player in program history to be named first-team All-Big Ten. She earned first-team honors by the media after ranking among the league leaders in conference games in rebounding (fourth with 7.6 per game), scoring (seventh with 14.0 per game) and free-throw percentage (seventh at .829). And yes, she led the Big Ten in blocks for the second straight season. In fact, she is the first player in conference history to record 100 blocks in two different seasons. She had a Big Ten record 145 last season, and currently has 120 heading into Friday's game.

Stayed tuned for updates in Indianapolis as the Spartans look for their second Big Ten Tournament title in school history.


Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

Having trouble planning what day to leave for Indianapolis and the Big Ten women's basketball tournament? You're not alone. The Spartans are seeking a top five spot in the league standings to secure a bye in the first round of the tournament. Heading into the last week of competition, the Spartans are currently in seventh place with a 9-8 conference record. However, the standings can change quickly. If the Spartans pulled out the victory at Purdue on Sunday, they would have been in a tie for third place. Instead, they are now in seventh. Call it life in the Big Ten during the 2007-08 season. Just one game separates teams No. 4-8 in the standings. As for scenarios? Well, as they say, that's why they play the games.

Here's a look at the standings and the remaining schedule in the Big Ten season:

2007-08 BIG TEN STANDINGS - CONFERENCE GAMES ONLY (as of Feb. 26)
T1. Ohio State (11-5)
T1. Iowa (11-5)
3. Purdue (11-6)
T4. Minnesota (9-7)
T4. Michigan (9-7)
T4. Indiana (9-7)
7. Michigan State (9-8)
8. Wisconsin (8-8)
9. Illinois (7-9)
10. Penn State (4-12)
11. Northwestern (1-15)

Thursday, Feb. 28
Illinois at Michigan State
Wisconsin at Michigan
Indiana at Minnesota
Northwestern at Iowa
Ohio State at Penn State

Sunday, March 2
Minnesota at Michigan
Purdue at Illinois
Iowa at Wisconsin
Penn State at Indiana
Northwestern at Ohio State

The Big Ten Women's Tournament begins Thursday, March 6 with first-round action. If the Spartans receive a bye, they will play in the quarterfinal round on Friday, March 7. Below is a complete schedule of the tournament.

Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament - presented by Xbox 360 Live - March 6-9, 2008 - ALL TIMES EASTERN

SCHEDULE:
Thursday, March 6
Game 1: No. 7 seed vs. No. 10 seed - Noon
Game 2: No. 6 seed vs. No. 11 seed - 25 min. after Game 1
Game 3: No. 8 seed vs. No. 9 seed - 25 min. after Game 2

Friday, March 7
Game 4: No. 2 seed vs. No. 7/10 - 11:30 a.m.
Game 5: No. 3 seed vs. No. 6/11 - 25 min. after Game 4
Game 6: No. 1 seed vs. No. 8/9 - 6 p.m.
Game 7: No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed - 25 min. after Game 7

Saturday, March 8
Semifinals, two games - first game starts at 6 p.m.

Sunday, March 9
Championship Game - 5:30 p.m.

Courtney Davidson


The regular-season finale is set for this Thursday against Illinois. Not only is it Senior Night, in which the program will honor seniors Courtney Davidson and Alisa Wulff, but it's also Fan Appreciation Night - anyone wearing Spartan apparel will get into the game free. Michigan State is looking for a strong crowd to close out the year. In the latest national attendance rankings, MSU is 10th in the nation. Help Michigan State finish in the top 10 for the third year in a row Thursday night!

The Spartans, with a 17-12 overall record, are still looking for their sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. In two bracket projections posted this week, MSU is listed as a No. 8 seed according to Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com and a No. 10 seed according to Charlie Crème of ESPN.

Fans, don't forget that the last Suzy Merchant Radio Show of the season will be held tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 27) at Reno's East on 1310 Abbott Road in East Lansing.


Friday, Feb. 22, 2008

Make that four in a row. Michigan State took care of Northwestern at the Breslin Center last night, 65-40, to match its season-high winning streak of four games. The Spartans clicked on all cylinders in the first half, shooting 57 percent and committing just four turnovers while racing out to a 40-18 halftime lead.

Brittney Thomas


Allyssa DeHaan, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, was her usual dominant self, shooting 10-for-16 from the field for 20 points. Brittney Thomas continued her excellent play, pouring in 13 points and grabbing eight rebounds. A point guard, Thomas continues to excel on the boards - in fact, her 145 rebounds are the most ever by a Spartan freshman guard. During the current winning streak, Thomas is averaging 10.8 points and 6.8 rebounds.

The Spartans have moved right up the Big Ten standings the last two weeks, and now stand in fifth place with a 9-7 conference record. The top five teams receive a bye in the Big Ten Tournament, which is scheduled for March 6-9 in Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse.

One of the key factors in receiving an NCAA Tournament bid is a team's RPI. According to one projection at collegerpi.com, the Spartans own an RPI of 48 and have played the nation's 32nd-toughest schedule. As of this week, MSU made an appearance as a No. 12 seed in collegerpi.com's projected NCAA Tournament bracket.

It's hard to quantify just how young the Spartans are this season, but a recent survey compiled by Sports Information Directors around the country has shed some light on MSU's youth. With the active 12-person roster featuring nine freshmen and sophomores, the Spartans have the most underclassmen of any team in the Big Ten. Those nine freshmen and sophomores have played 76 percent of MSU's minutes this season, which ranks eighth in the nation.

Here's a look at the top 10 youngest teams in the nation, according to minutes played:

Relying on Freshmen and Sophomores
The list of teams below ranks by what percentage of total minutes played is from freshmen and sophomores.

Team (Percentage, Record)
1. Gardner Webb (94.0 percent, 11-14)
2. Jacksonville State (88.0 percent, 11-15)
3. Tulsa (87.5 percent, 9-16)
4. Colgate (77.7 percent, 1-24)
5. Texas A&M (77.0 percent, 18-7)
5. New Hampshire (77.0 percent, 6-16)
7. Xavier (76.5 percent, 19-7)
8. Michigan State (75.9 percent, 17-11)
9. Missouri (75.6 percent, 8-16)
10. Coastal Carolina (75.3 percent, 15-9)

Unfortunately, one of the reasons MSU has had to rely on its youth was due to Aisha Jefferson's season-ending knee injury she suffered Nov. 4 in an exhibition game against Lake Superior State. Fans have no doubt seen Aisha providing the Spartans some energy on the bench this season, cheering on her teammates during games. As for her rehab, check out this extended feature that was published today in the State News, which also includes a video.

MSU will look to win its fifth straight game when it faces Purdue Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind. The game will be televised by ESPN2.


Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

It's been a good week for the Michigan State women's basketball team. First, the Spartans rallied to defeat Purdue, 56-54, Monday on "Think Pink" night at the Breslin Center. Then, on Tuesday, it was announced that the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship will be returning to the Breslin Center in 2009.

The win over Purdue was inspirational not only because of the effort to come back from a 13-point deficit, but also to see all of the breast cancer survivors honored at halftime. The "Think Pink" initiative is a global, unified effort for the WBCA's nation of coaches to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. Over 900 teams across the nation are participating in "Think Week" this year, which is from Feb. 8-17. The Spartans wore pink shooting shirts, shoelaces and headbands for "Think Pink" night.


"I told our kids at the shoot around today that I think there isn't anyone on our team or anyone in our community who hasn't been affected by cancer in some way," Coach Suzy Merchant said after the game. "It's a pretty crippling disease, and one we hope we get a cure for someday. The biggest theme for us was that people were fighting for their lives, as I mentioned earlier, and they honored the cancer survivors at halftime. And that's what we needed to be, we needed to come out here and fight, and make people proud of us. I think the "Think Pink" week is something that really brings awareness to breast cancer. And the thing that I really appreciated was the t-shirts that were sold for five dollars. It came right back here to the community, to the Greater Lansing Komen Foundation."

As for the NCAA Tournament, Michigan State was selected to host the first and second rounds for the second time in three years. Last year, Michigan State hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Women's Championship for the first time in school history at the Breslin Center. East Lansing led all eight first- and second-round sites with a total 21,340 fans passing through the turnstiles during the three sessions. The 2007 event featured eight teams, including host Michigan State and NCAA finalist Rutgers.

The format will be different in 2009, as the Spartans will host four teams and three games. The sites were added after the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Committee announced in the summer of 2007 that the championship would be expanding to 16 pre-determined first- and second-round sites, beginning in 2009. Last year, there were eight first- and second-round sites, which each site hosting eight teams. Four teams will play first-round games at the Breslin Center either Saturday, March 21 or Sunday, March 22, 2009. The second-round game will be on Monday, March 23 or Tuesday, March 24.

While the WNBA season is still a few months away, former Spartan All-American Kristin Haynie found out last week she will be playing for a new team. Haynie was selected in last week's expansion draft by the Atlanta Dream. This summer will mark Haynie's fourth season in the WNBA. She spent her first three seasons playing for the Sacramento Monarchs, and helped the Monarchs win the WNBA Championship in 2005.

And with the title of this blog being "Blocked Shots", we must mention the latest feat by Allyssa DeHaan. With her six blocks against the Boilermakers, she became the first player in Big Ten history to record 100 blocks in two different seasons. She set a Big Ten record as a freshman with 145 blocks, and currently leads the league again with 105 blocks. In fact, it marked just the sixth time in Big Ten history that a player has recorded 100 blocks in a season, with the others being Trish Andrew of Michigan (136 in 1991-92), Janetta Johnson of Wisconsin (130 in 1988-89), Jessica Davenport of Ohio State (116 in 2004-05) and Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton of Purdue (108 in 2006-07). As a team, the Spartans are first in the Big Ten with 140 blocked shots.

With no television coverage of Thursday night's game at Indiana, be sure to tune into to Rick Berkey, who will be calling all of the action on WVFN 730 AM and msuspartans.com. Sunday's game at Penn State will be televised on the Big Ten Network at 2 p.m.


Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008

Pink is the color of the week throughout the world of women's basketball as the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) celebrates "Think Pink" week Feb. 8-17. The "Think Pink" initiative is a global, unified effort for the WBCA's nation of coaches to assist in raising breast cancer awareness on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond.

For Monday night's game against Purdue, Michigan State will one of more than 900 teams participating in "Think Pink" week. The Spartans will be wearing pink apparel to show their support for the cause, and breast cancer survivors will be honored at halftime.


Think Pink t-shirts will be on sale at the game for $15, and $5 goes right back to the Greater Lansing Komen Foundation. Fans that have already purchased a t-shirt can get in free to the game by wearing their Think Pink t-shirt. In addition, the first 1,000 fans will get a free Think Pink water bottle.

The WBCA began "Think Pink" in 2007, and more than 120 schools unified for the effort and helped make the inaugural year a success.

If interested in supporting the WBCA's cause to fight breast cancer, fans can donate to the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund in partnership with The V Foundation.


Friday, Feb. 1, 2008

What a comeback. Down eight points with six and a half minutes remaining, the Spartans stormed back last night to beat archrival Michigan in front of 8,287 screaming fans at the Breslin Center. With MSU trailing 53-45, Coach Merchant called a timeout at the 6:32 mark, switched to a zone defense, and before you knew it, the Spartans were on a 10-0 run and Michigan couldn't score. The Wolverines were held scoreless for the next five minutes, finally scoring with 1:28 left on a layup to tie the game at 55.

That's when the Spartans turned clutch. MSU hit all six of its free throws in the final minute, courtesy of Allyssa DeHaan, Brittney Thomas and Kalisha Keane, and a last second 3-pointer by Michigan's Janelle Cooper went off the mark. In fact, the Spartans hit their last 12 free throws of the game.

All in all, it was Michigan State's 10th win in the last 11 meetings against Michigan, including its fifth straight win at the Breslin Center over the Wolverines.


During the final 16-5 surge for MSU, DeHaan had six points and a block. She finished with 15 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists. Her all-around game is quite impressive when stacking her against the rest of the Big Ten - she is fifth in scoring (15.1 ppg), fourth in rebounding (8.0 rpg), fifth in free-throw percentage (.851), sixth in field-goal percentage (.498), and of course, first in blocks with 4.2 a game. Those numbers are getting her noticed nationally - she is just one of 16 players in the nation to be named to the watch lists for the Naismith Trophy, the Wade Trophy and the Wooden Award. Earlier this week, Allyssa was named a midseason candidate for the Naismith Trophy.

MSU's second leading scorer, Kalisha Keane, scored nine points against the Wolverines to go along with four assists. Keane is having one of the most productive freshman seasons in school history. She already ranks seventh in the Spartan freshman record book with 299 points, and could top Allyssa DeHaan's record of 411 points set a season ago. Keane was recently profiled in a story on Canada's National Elite Development Academy. She was a member of the inaugural class of the academy.

Another Spartan stepping up is sophomore guard Mandy Piechowski. She scored a career-high 14 points and hit four 3-pointers at Minnesota last Sunday, then scored 12 points vs. Michigan. She scored eight of MSU's first 10 points last night, including two 3's. In her last two games, Mandy is averaging 13.0 points a game. Listen to her interview on Spartan Sports Podcasts after the win over Michigan.

MSU Athletics celebrated National Girls and Women in Sports Day last night, honoring all of MSU's female varsity sports teams with a video tribute at halftime. Prior the game, the teams performed clinics and signed autographs for fans. To see pictures from the event, check out the Michigan State photo gallery.

The Spartans have Super Bowl Sunday off before traveling to Iowa next Thursday.


Friday, Jan. 18, 2008

Believe it or not, this Sunday's game against Indiana at 2 p.m. is the last home weekend game of the season for the Spartans. MSU still has four more home games, but all of them will be during weeknights, with one on Monday and three on Thursday. It figures to be a good matchup, as Indiana heads to East Lansing tied for second in the Big Ten standings with a 4-2 record. It's expected to be one of the loudest crowds of the season as the annual McCheer Off takes place during halftime.

Sunday is also Mia Johnson's Hometown Day. The first 300 fans will get a Mia Johnson poster and she will be signing autographs on the concourse after the game.

While MSU's starters provided the big lift in the win over Northwestern, the Spartan bench saw extended minutes in the victory. Mandy Piechowski, Mia Johnson, Lauren Aitch, Taja Wilson, Takeya Fortner and Alisa Wulff all saw action in the victory. Fortner has especially been a factor the past three games, averaging 4.7 points and 18 minutes a game the past three contests. She was labeled the team's "spark plug" in a feature published in today's State News.

After Sunday's home game, the Spartans will head to the road for games at Illinois and Minnesota next week. The next home game is against Michigan on Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.


Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008

Just a reminder to all fans that after a two-week layoff due to the holidays, the Suzy Merchant Radio Show resumes this Wednesday from noon-1 p.m. at Reno's East located at 1310 Abbott Road in East Lansing. If you can't make it, tune into WVFN 730 AM to listen live or check out msuspartans.com later in the week for an archived podcast of the show. The remaining dates for the shows are as follows:

Wednesday, January 9
Wednesday, January 16
Wednesday, January 23
Wednesday, January 30
Wednesday, February 6
ednesday, February 13
Wednesday, February 20
Wednesday, February 27

Friday, Jan. 5, 2008

The Michigan State women's basketball team will be featured tonight on WLNS (Ch. 6, Lansing area) from 9-10 p.m. as part of the "State of the State '08" Big Ten preview of the men's and women's basketball teams. Features include interviews with Coach Merchant, Allyssa DeHaan, Brittney Thomas and Kalisha Keane.

There are several upcoming events for members of the MVP's, including a lock-in, a bus trip to Ann Arbor and an essay contest. For more information and to sign up, click here.


Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008

Greetings and Happy New Year from Madison, Wisconsin. The Spartans flew into Madison on New Year's Day for their game tonight vs. the Badgers at 8 p.m. ET. Although the game is not on television, Wisconsin's official athletic website, www.uwbadgers.com, will provide a free webstream of the game. The game will also be televised on tape delay by Wisconsin Public Television at 11 p.m. CT, but that's viewing for Spartan fans only living in the state of Wisconsin.

The Badgers have lost their first two Big Ten games, including a loss at Illinois on Sunday, but tonight will still be a difficult test for the Spartans. Wisconsin features Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Jolene Anderson, who is averaging 18.0 points a game. The Badgers return all five starters from last year's team and were picked second in the Big Ten in the preseason coaches' poll.


MSU is coming off a huge 60-53 victory over Ohio State at the Breslin Center before a crowd of 8,705, the 10th largest in Spartan history. It marked Coach Merchant's first-ever win over a ranked team. The main statistic that pleased Coach Merchant the coaching staff was the fact that MSU out-rebounded the Buckeyes, 44-35. Ohio State head coach Jim Foster said: "I just think they outworked us.".

The win was especially key since the Spartans do not have to travel to Columbus during the regular season. After the game, the players spray-painted Coach Merchant's hair green as part of a "Hair Dare" promotion by the MSU Athletics Department. At halftime, the program welcomed back more than 30 former players for Alumni Day, including Paula Sanders, Lindsay Bowen, Victoria Lucas-Perry and Rene Haynes. In case you missed it, check out the photos from Sunday's photo gallery.

The Spartans will be back home on Saturday against Penn State at noon in a nationally televised game on CBS. It will also be Allyssa DeHaan's hometown day, so with limited posters available, fans wanting a DeHaan poster are encouraged to get to the game early. Doors to the Breslin Center open at 10:30 a.m.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Call it the lunch-time special. MSU takes on Providence this afternoon at noon in the Spartans' seventh road game of the season, and the eighth will be this Saturday at Hartford. Both figure to be tough games for MSU.

Providence is off to an 8-2 start, and is doing fine despite two injuries, writes Mike Szostak of the Providence Journal.

Meanwhile, the game at Hartford is quietly gaining some national attention. Charlie Creme of ESPN.com says it's one of the best games over holiday break. Hartford's last win was a statement game for the program - it beat Marist, who advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2007 NCAA Tournament - and snapped the Red Foxes' 26-game home-court winning streak. Hartford, with a 9-2 record, owns an RPI of 20 and is receiving votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll.

MSU has suffered its share of ACL injuries - from Lauren Aitch to Mia Johnson to Aisha Jefferson - but the Spartans are not the only team to fall victim to torn ACLs. CSTV.com's Lara Boyko takes a look at the injury from a unique perspective. The good news for Spartan fans is that Aisha Jefferson's surgery went well and she is on the road to recovery, and Mia Johnson is starting to get minutes in the rotation.

While we will try to keep you up to date on all the Spartan articles from around the state and country, here's a few articles from the past couple of months on MSU that you might have missed:

Alisa Wullf: Leader of the Pack - The State News

Cetera Washington: Washington 'at home' at MSU - Kalamazoo Gazette

Allyssa DeHaan: Q & A: DeHaan Ready to Rock - The Grand Rapids Press


Thursday, December 13, 2007

One of the best matchups in women's college basketball this season will take place this Sunday at the Breslin Center as two national player of the year candidates go face to face. Sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan, who was recently added to the Wade Trophy Watch List, will go against two-time All-American and 2006-07 AP National Player of the Year Courtney Paris. DeHaan leads the nation in blocks. Paris leads the nation in rebounds. Both lead their teams in scoring. Something will have to give on Sunday.

Allyssa and Courtney both played international basketball this summer and won gold medals for Team USA. Allyssa led her U19 team in blocks in winning gold in Bratislava, Slovakia, while Courtney played on the U21 team in the summer and the national team in the fall, winning gold on both teams.

"BUST THE BUS" - Prior to Sunday's game, don't forget to bring an unwrapped toy and place it on the Dean Transportation bus outside Breslin Center gates B & C. If you bring an unwrapped toy, you will receive a free ticket to the Dec. 28 game vs. Minnesota at 2 p.m. All of the toys will be given to Toys for Tots.

THE PLAYER FORMERLY KNOWN AS SHIMEK - MSU's all-time leading scorer, Liz (Shimek) Moeggenberg, is playing basketball in France this offseason. A member of the WNBA's Chicago Sky, she recently wrote an update for the Sky's official website on her days in France.

20TH-YEAR REUNION - Assistant coach Evelyn Thompson won a national title 20 seasons ago at Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, Miss. The team had a 20-year reunion last weekend, but Thompson was unable to attend. In fact, she missed the game against Indiana State while on the road recruiting. Thompson, who went on to play in two national title games for Auburn, earned Kodak All-America honors at Northeast Mississippi.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Another Monday, another Big Ten Player of the Week honor for Allyssa DeHaan. For the second straight week, the Big Ten named Allyssa the player of the week. It's just the second time in program history a player has been named Big Ten Player of the Week back-to-back weeks - the first player to do it was Liz Shimek in December 2005.

Allyssa earned the award with an impressive peformance at Indiana State, nearly recording a triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight blocks. Here's what Indiana State head coach Jim Wiedie had to say about DeHaan after the game, courtesy of the Indiana Statesman: "DeHaan used her height a lot more last year. But I think she's much better this year and I thought she was pretty good last year. She's got a nice jump hook. She keeps that ball high and never brings it down. It's very tough to defend that."

Terre Haute's daily newspaper, the Tribune Star, has post-game video of Coach Merchant available at its website.

In his game recap for the Tribune Star, Sycamore beat writer Todd Golden said Indiana State got De-Haan-isized. Said Sycamore center Maria Olsthoorn: "She was good inside, she could hit the 15-footer, she could pass, she could rebound, she could pretty much do it all."

Before heading out to Indiana State, Allyssa talked with the Big Ten Network about the team this season.

DeHaan, who leads the nation in blocked shots with 48, is just two blocks away from becoming MSU's all-time leading shot blocker. She has 193 blocks in 42 career games. Kristen Rasmussen, who is currently first with 194 career blocks, played in 118 career games.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Greetings from Terre Haute, Ind., as the Spartans prepare to take on Indiana State at the Hulman Center this afternoon. For a preview of today's game, check out the story in the Lansing State Journal.

Although the game will not be televised in the Lansing area or on satellite TV, there are plenty of options to follow the game, including free audio here at msuspartans.com. Fans can watch the game on a webstream for a fee at www.gosycamores.com.

Media Coverage vs. Indiana State:
Live Audio (Free)
Live Stats
Live Video (pay-per-view through gosycamores.com)

In scheduling news, the Big Ten opener on Friday, Dec. 28 vs. Minnesota has been moved up to 2 p.m. With the Spartan football team playing Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl at 5 p.m. on the same day, the MSU Athletics Department announced yesterday the time change. The game was originally scheduled for 7 p.m.


Friday, December 7, 2007

With sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan leading the nation in blocks, the Spartans as a team ranking first in the Big Ten in blocks, and having set a Big Ten record last season for blocked shots, there's really not much debate what to title msuspartans.com's blog about Michigan State women's basketball. You got it - blocked shots. This blog will take a closer look at the MSU women's basketball team, giving fans an in-depth look at the latest news and notes concerning the Spartans.

Although we're more than a month into the regular season, it's better late than never to get started. The blog will have several features, including photos from the road, quotes from press conferences, upcoming promotions, links to newspaper articles on the team and updates on former Spartans.

Through eight games and a difficult road schedule, the Spartans are 6-2 overall heading into Saturday's road game at Indiana State. Michigan State will play eight of its 12 non-conference games away from East Lansing this season, the most since 1981-82. During the non-conference season, the team will have traveled more than 10,000 miles to places such as Baton Rouge, La., Cancun, Mexico, Dover, Del., Norfolk, Va., Terre Haute, Ind., Providence, R.I., and Hartford, Conn. The Sycamores of ISU will be a tough challenge, as they beat No. 17 Vanderbilt earlier this season in Terre Haute. For more on the match up against Indiana State, check out MSU's game notes, posted before every game at msuspartans.com.

With all of the road games, you might not have had a chance yet to meet this year's Spartans, but the entire team, along with Coach Merchant, will be signing autographs this Sunday, Dec. 9 at the Lansing Mall outside of Macy's from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Also a reminder to fans that the Suzy Merchant Radio Show is held every Wednesday at Reno's East on 1310 Abbott Road in East Lansing from noon-1 p.m. If you can't make it, a new feature this year at msuspartans.com allows fans to listen to the show on their computer. Every week, a downloadable .MP3 file, courtesy of the Spartan Sports Network, will be available on the website. The third show of the year will be Dec. 12 as Coach Merchant previews the upcoming home game against No. 9 Oklahoma on Sunday, Dec. 16 at noon. Due to the holidays, there will not be shows on Dec. 26 or Jan. 2.

With all of the new faces on this year's coaching staff, fans might have also recognized a new voice calling the games on the radio this season. The new play-by-play announcer is Rick Berkey, who has more than 25 years of broadcasting experience. Listen to Rick call all of the games this season on WVFN 730 AM in the Lansing area or anywhere worldwide at msuspartans.com. Fans can listen to the games for free on the internet by simply registering with CSTV.com. An audio link is posted for every game in the events calendar at the bottom of front page at msuspartans.com, as well as in the audio/video section of the website (link at the top of every page at msuspartans.com).

Injuries are always tough to deal with in sports, and this year's team is no exception. Before the season, three-year letterwinner Laura Hall elected not to play in 2007-08 because of a lingering foot injury. Junior Mia Johnson, a starter last season, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during summer workouts and will be out until at least the Big Ten season starts.

Other players have gotten hurt as well, including Kalisha Keane, who broke her nose in preseason practice, but the biggest injury was the loss of team captain Aisha Jefferson for the season after she tore her ACL in her right knee during an exhibition game against Lake Superior State on Nov. 4. Aisha has been traveling with the team on road games, but will have to miss this Saturday's game at Indiana State. She is having her surgery done today, so Spartan fans everywhere be thinking of Aisha as she starts the road to recovery. Her energy and enthusiasm will be missed this season, but she'll be back healthy and ready to go next season for the Spartans.