INDIANAPOLIS - For much of the game, the No. 2-seeded MSU women's
basketball team was in position to suffer an upset at the hands of its
biggest rival. But senior forward Annalise Pickrel didn't plan to have
her career end at the hands of No. 7-seeded Michigan.
Pickrel asserted herself as both a scorer and vocal
leader, posting 18 points and seven rebounds to help the Spartans
overcome a 14-point first half deficit and steal a 61-58 win from
Michigan at Bankers Life Fieldhouse Friday night to advance to the third round of the Big Ten Tournament.
"I think Annalise's will to win was there from start to finish,"
said head coach Suzy Merchant. "Sometimes, when things aren't going are
way, we can become an
individualized team, everybody wants to put the team on their back. But
because of that, it's one passed shot and we're one and done. She
didn't allow that to happen."
The 14-point comeback is MSU's largest of the season.
tougher team wins," Pickrel said. "That's really what it is. You can be
twelfth seed and win the tournament. It's just whoever is mentally
prepared and willing to do what they have to do."
Michigan sophomore guard Madison Ristovski was on fire,
leading the Wolverines with 18 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep. Ristovski, however, missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds that would
have sent the game into overtime.
Despite big performances from several Spartans, it
was redshirt freshman guard Branndais Agee who stole the show at the end
of the game.
Following a bucket by freshman guard Tori Jankoska to give the Spartans a 59-58 lead with 1:15 left in the game, Agee stole the ball from Ristovski, and after an MSU timeout, tipped in a miss
from junior forward Becca Mills to seal the comeback win.
was the latest in a string of encouraging performances from Agee, who
did not become a staple in the rotation until Kiana Johnson's indefinite suspension. The redshirt freshman has proven herself as a defender and
energy player off the bench.
"I give Branndais credit, it's not an easy pill to swallow when you're
watching two of the three freshmen start, play a lot of minutes and you're
just trying to fight for yours," said Merchant. "But since there's been a transition
there with Kiana, she's really taken advantage and sparked us in many
Despite trailing for much of the game, MSU stayed
within striking distance for much of the second half behind the strong
play of Pickrel, Mills and junior center Jasmine Hines.
After setting a hard pick that sent Michigan junior
guard Shannon Smith to the ground, Hines made a layup to trim
Michigan's lead to 46-41.
Jankoska nailed her first 3-pointer of the
night with 10:28 on the clock to cut the lead to two.
Michigan built the lead back up to six, but Powers found Agee
in transition and sank her first bucket of the game to trim the lead
back to two. Jankoska scored a transition layup with 5:57 on toe clock to cut the score to 53-51.
With under four minutes left, Mills laid it in to cut the lead
to three. Pickrel drove to the rim on the next play to cut the lead to
Following two free throws by Siera Thompson, Jankoska and Agee took hold of the reins.
senior guard Klarissa Bell and redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers
struggling for much of the game, teammates pointed to Agee as the
"Branndais, in that stretch there, she did a lot for us," Pickrel said. "She got some
really important plays, some defensive stops, rebounds. Her energy
really lifted us up"