Aerial Powers sets double-double record in 71-43 blowout against Illinois
On Wednesday evening, the MSU women’s basketball team played their final away game of the regular season against Illinois. The Spartans (21-7 overall, 12-5 conference) blew out the Fighting Illini (9-19 overall, 2-15 conference) by a final score of 71-43.
Illinois’ performance on Wednesday was a hard fought one from start to finish. The Spartans scored first in the opening quarter on a Tori Jankoska 3-pointer. MSU would later go on a 10-2 run, but a 3-pointer by redshirt senior Kyley Simmons to cut the Spartan’s lead in half. MSU would take a 16-9 lead into the second quarter.
As the second quarter progressed, MSU had established an 18-point lead thanks to the help of the Spartan offense. However, by the end of the half, Illinois would score nine unanswered points to cut MSU’s lead to nine points at halftime.
Both Jankoska and junior guard Aerial Powers combined for 16 of MSU’s 33 points in the first half. Collectively, the Spartans shot 11-for-30 from the floor, including 3-of-12 from 3-point land. Eight of MSU’s points came from the free-throw line.
Things became interesting in the third quarter when Illinois started the second half on a 12-2 run to take their first and only lead of the evening. The Spartans would counter with nine consecutive points until the fighting Illini fought back with a pair of Jaelyne Kirkpatrick free throws and another Simmons three. Illinois was within striking distance going into the fourth, with a score of 44-41.
The Spartans, however, would open the floodgates in the final ten minutes of regulation. MSU scored 27 fourth quarter points, while Illinois could only muster two on a lone jumper by Simmons. Simmons would finish the contest with 19 points, going 5-for-16 from the floor and 4-for-11 from behind the arc. As a team, the FIghting Illini shot 24.1 percent from field-goal range.
Powers led the Spartans in scoring with 26 total points. She finished the contest shooting 8-for-19 from the floor, ten rebounds and three assists. This is Powers’ 44th career double-double which set a new school record. Jankoska complimented Powers’ performance with 14 points and 11 rebounds, good enough for her second straight double-double.
The win on Wednesday was head coach Suzy Merchant’s 200th as a Spartan and number 401 of her career. MSU athletic director Mark Hollis and president Lou Anna K. Simon were in attendance for MSU’s last win against Minnesota to congratulate Merchant for reaching the milestone.
The win for the Spartan guarantees them a top-four seed in the Big Ten tournament, which begins next week. The Spartans will now shift their focus on No. 5-ranked Ohio State, which currently lead the Big Ten with a 15-2 conference record after being upset by Minnesota on Wednesday night. MSU will host the Buckeyes on Saturday, with tip off slated for 2 p.m.