MSU wins defensive grudge match against Purdue, climbs in Big Ten standings
Usually when two great defenses face each other, the result is a low-scoring and gritty deathmatch. Wednesday night was no exception when the MSU women’s basketball team hosted Purdue and won by a final score of 68-56.
Wednesday’s meet between the two teams was slated to be a defensive-minded matchup, with Purdue ranked third in the Big Ten in scoring defense, and MSU right behind them. The Spartans, however, were able to muscle their way through Purdue’s formidable defense.
Coming into Wednesday’s contest the No. 18 Spartans (15-4 overall record, 6-2 Big Ten record) trailed the third-place Boilermakers (15-5 record, 6-3 B1G) by one game in the Big Ten standings, but will now take their place after their victory over the Boilermakers.
After Purdue’s Bree Horrocks began scoring with a jumper, MSU would follow with a 12-3 run to establish their lead and would never look back. By the end of the first half MSU would put themselves on top by a score of 37-24.
MSU junior point guard Aerial Powers had a monster first half Wednesday night, with 15 points and four assists. Also helping the Spartan’s cause was junior point guard Tori Jankoska, going 3-for-4 from three and finishing the half with nine points.
Purdue’s two biggest contributors only had 12 combined points going into halftime. Junior guard Ashley Morrissette had six points and three boards and sophomore center Bree Horrocks had six points and two rebounds. Purdue shot 39.3 percent from the field, including 16.7 percent from three.
The Spartans would pick up right where they left off in the second half, opening with a 12-4 run. The Spartans also showed versatility from their bench, with freshmen Jenna Allen and Hana Vesela and sophomores Lexi Gussert and Kennedy Johnson all getting playing time.
“Especially with the grind of Big Ten season, and what we’re about to go into, you’ve got to have your core group” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “But it’s important to get good minutes out of Jenna, and Lexi, and Hana. ...We’re going to need them, there’s no question about that and we’ve got some depth there.”
One of the key’s to MSU success against Purdue was their ability to lockdown their playmakers. The Spartans were able to hold senior guard April Wilson to 2-for-7 from the field, finishing with five points and four assists. Wilson was coming off a 24-point performance against Iowa and leads her team with 15.6 points per game.
Morrissette finished to be the Boilermaker’s top contributor, with nine points, four rebounds and three assists, and the team finished shooting 38.2 percent from field-goal range, and 18.2 percent from behind the arc.
“Keys is a more aggressive guard she doesn’t shoot a lot and she’ll attack the rack,” Powers said. “So limiting her doing that and Wilson is a pull up guard so on screens we really keyed in to make her shots tougher.”
Another factor in MSU’s victory was their potent offensive lineup. Powers led her team with a season-best 25 points and six rebounds. Jankoska finished with 16 points, five boards and five assists. To top it off, sophomore guard Branndais Agee had 11 points, with three assists to go with it. Those three combined for 52 of MSU’s 68 points.
“It’s like pick your poison,” Jankoska said. “You can’t really stop (our offense) from getting to the rim and when and if you try and put two or three on them you’re going to leave Jasmine (Hines) open, or a 50-percent shooter like Branndais open, and I’m getting my stride back so people don’t really have much of a choice than to go zone, because it’s really a struggle to guard us in man.”
MSU will now turn their focus on Wisconsin (6-12 record, 2-6 B1G), who they play on the road on Sunday. Tip off is set for 4 p.m. and can be caught on BTN+.