MSU looks for 13th-straight win against rival Wolverines
Senior forward Courtney Schiffauer drives the ball toward the basket Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated Michigan, 61—46, improving their record to 6-3 in the Big Ten. Adam Toolin/The State News
The Breslin Center crew had yet to finish using their leaf blowers to clear away popcorn, wrappers and cups left behind from the Spartan women’s basketball team’s most lopsided conference victory.
Less than an hour after routing visiting Indiana by a score of 72-42 Sunday, a few MSU players offered stinging comments about the next opponent — Michigan.
“Whenever I talk about Michigan, I get emotional and I say things I’m not supposed to say and I get in trouble for that,” junior guard Klarissa Bell joked.
“It’s just Green and White versus Blue and yellow. … Just a feeling you can’t describe. I don’t know why it is, but it just is, and you don’t want them to win. You don’t really like them — you don’t even know them and you don’t like them, you know what I’m saying? Like maybe I could get to know them, but I don’t want to. It’s just something you can’t describe really.”
When the Spartans welcomed the Wolverines to Breslin on Feb. 4 for their annual “pink game,” MSU blew them out, 61-46, to extend the series winning streak to 12 games.
The first contest was typical of most Spartan victories — engineered by balanced scoring and stifling defense. All five MSU starters scored at least eight points, and Bell held U-M’s Kate Thompson — the school’s single-season 3-point record holder — to 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
“The first game was a lot of fun. I think everybody in the locker room felt it. Everything we said about them was just — it was not nice. That just gives us so much momentum and Schiff leads that,” junior forward Annalise Pickrel said, referring to captain and senior forward Courtney Schiffauer.
“Singing our fight song in their tunnel is like the most amazing (thing). That’s like my favorite part of being a Spartan for sure.”
The all-time rivalry record sits at 61-15 in MSU’s favor — something head coach Suzy Merchant doesn’t like to be reminded of. The Wolverines have enjoyed a full week to prepare for the rematch with MSU following their last game on Feb. 10, an upset win over No. 18 Purdue on the road.
As of Thursday evening, MSU is in a three-way tie for fourth-place in the Big Ten with U-M and Illinois. The conference’s top three teams — No. 8 Penn State, Purdue and Nebraska — all played Thursday night, so the pecking order could see another shake up.
“The core group that we have understands,” Merchant said. “They’ve all been in that gym, they’ve all played in there. They know the heated rivalry. They know the five seniors (for Michigan). … But at the end of the day players make plays, and hopefully ours make a few more than theirs.”
On being tied in the Big Ten with the Wolverines, Pickrel said, “It’s just a gross feeling.”
Bell stressed the importance of sending a senior class off undefeated against their rivals.
“That senior class, for them never losing to Michigan and to have the seniors of Michigan never beat Michigan State, that’s just huge,” Bell said.
“I mean, could you imagine playing your rival school and never winning against them in your four years? That would just suck. So that would be awesome if that could happen.”