No. 17 MSU flexes muscle against rival U-M, wins 85-64
Much like every game against arch-rival Michigan, tensions were thick and intensity was high in Wednesday’s game for the MSU women’s basketball team.
Only days before their male counterparts travel out to Ann Arbor, Spartan and Wolverine fans alike filled the Breslin for the two schools’ only matchup of the regular season. The Spartans (17-4 overall record, 8-2 in the Big Ten) defeated the Wolverines (12-10 record, 4-7 B1G) by a final score of 85-64.
MSU spent no time scoring early, getting out to a 13-4 lead before the first quarter was even finished, thanks to the help of junior guard Aerial Powers and sophomore guard Branndais Agee. The two combined for shooting 8-for-11 from the field, good enough for 26 of MSU’s 48 points going into halftime.
"I thought we played very well," MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said in Wednesday's post-game press conference. "We had a demeanor about us that this was going to go our way... We really wanted to come out of the gates strong... we just wanted to play with high-energy, enthusiasm and aggression on both ends of the floor."
Michigan sophomore guard Katelynn Flaherty was carrying U-M for much of the first half and throughout the game. Flaherty was 5-13 from field-goal range including a 3-pointer and 13 points in the half. She would finish shooting 35 percent from the field and 1-for-4 from behind the arc.
As usual, both teams were filled with angst and sought out to play a very aggressive game. U-M fouled MSU 21 times, which became unfortunate for the Wolverines because the Spartans made 100 percent of their free-throws on Wednesday night.
The Spartans continued to hold their own in the second half, while the U-M offense was few and far between. MSU took a 27-point lead against their rival going into the fourth quarter and finishing the third quarter on a 12-3 run.
The Wolverines, however, did get help from the bench, with contributions from freshman guard Boogie Brozoski scoring all 13 of her points in the second half. U-M also got help from junior guard Siera Thompson, who finished with nine points and three rebounds. As a team, the Wolverines shot fairly well at 38.6 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range.
"Boogie didn't really play much under pressure," U-M head coach Kim Barnes Arico said. "She plays with a type of speed that our other kids don't play with and she really gave us some positive minutes."
With the help of Powers (27 points and eight rebounds), Agee (20 points and four boards) and junior guard Tori Jankoska (16 points and three assists), the potent offensive trio scored the majority of MSU’s points. As a team MSU shot an impressive 56.9 field-goal rate and 47.1 from behind the arc to give U-M their tenth loss of the season.
Wednesday night’s win for MSU comes in the midst of a busy week for the Spartans, with this game being one of three games played within a six day period. The Spartans will be happy with every point that they can get in the upcoming games.
"In practice we need to be mentally sharp for sure," Jankoska said. "Since we're not going full speed we've got to keep our legs a little bit, paying attention to what coach is talking about and pay attention to detail in scouting reports."
Up next on MSU’s agenda will be No. 5 Maryland on Friday and Iowa on Sunday. Friday’s game against the Terrapins comes after Winter Storm Jonas canceled the initial meeting between the two teams. The Terps are tied with No. 7 ranked Ohio State for first in the Big Ten.
Friday’s game will be televised on BTN+, with tip off set for 7 p.m.