No. 23 MSU defeats No. 16 Northwestern, 74-51
On a busy Sunday where the students of MSU were returning to campus to get ready for the new semester, the No. 23 MSU women’s basketball team pulled an upset over No. 16 Northwestern by a score of 74-51.
Prior to the contest on Sunday, the Spartans (12-3, 3-1 Big Ten) and the Wildcats (12-4, 1-3 Big Ten) were evenly matched from a statistical standpoint with MSU scoring 78.4 points per game and only allowing 59.3 points per game. Northwestern was only slightly behind the Spartans, averaging 78.1 points per game and allowing 61.3 per contest.
Since MSU’s loss to Ohio State on Dec. 31, MSU is now 3-0 and have outscored opponents by a combined 49 points.
“I think our kids have done a good job at staying mentally and physically fresh,” head coach Suzy Merchant said after Sunday’s game. “To me it’s about doing your job, being as focused as you can be whatever the situation is, and I think our kids were very motivated after the loss to Ohio State.”
MSU came out of the gates early on Sunday and seized their opportunity, leaving the Wildcats stunned at halftime with a score of 42-24.
Leading the way for MSU offense in the first quarter were juniors Tori Jankoska and Aerial Powers and sophomore point guard Branndais Agee, each with 12 points. Powers also helped her cause with nine rebounds. MSU shot an impressive 46.9 percent from the field, including a 33.3 percent three-point rate.
“I think we just have to keep riding with what we’ve got,” Jankoska said. “We were trying to figure out what our roles were and now we’re kind of settled in, taking shots when we need to be, passing when we need to be… and distributing the ball more.”
The Wildcats’ biggest contributor came from junior forward Nia Coffey, who had nine points and four rebounds. Northwestern made 25.0 percent of its field goals, but were an ice cold 6.7 percent from behind the arc.
And even though Northwestern opened the second half on an 8-0 run, MSU answered back with authority. The Spartans bullied the Wildcats and at one point held a 31-point lead over NU.
The Spartans ended the game with four players over 10 points. Forward Aerial Powers had her fifth double-double of the season and 40th of her career, leading the Spartans with 21 points and 12 total rebounds. Her 40 double-doubles is good for second all-time in program history (only behind Mary Kay Itnyre). Junior point guard Tori Jankoska finished the day with 12 points and eight rebounds and Agee finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.
“ (Agee) adds a lot, she started on fire,” Powers said. “When we started the game she was kind of carrying us for a while. Sometimes we start off kind of slow but Branndais was on fire and we just kept feeding her the ball and it’s great to have her.”
Sunday’s win is a big one for the Spartans, who will likely surge in the national rankings. This victory for MSU is also important because now that Big Ten play is underway, every game is important for the Spartans put them in good position for the Big Ten standings. MSU is currently second in the Big Ten, just behind Purdue and Ohio State who are each 4-0 in the Big Ten.
MSU will take a few days off before they travel to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (9-6) on Wednesday. Tip off is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.