FINAL: MSU women's basketball downs Indiana in a team effort
On a symbolic day honoring National Girls and Women in Sports Day, MSU women's basketball (16-7, 6-4 Big Ten) welcomed the 6,438 fans with a sight all too familiar — senior guard Tori Jankoska hoisting a 3-point field goal.
After an up-and-down first half, MSU used a 10-0 run in the third quarter to down the visiting Indiana Hoosiers (15-7, 5-4 Big Ten), by a final score of 69-60.
The Spartans stretched their lead to 10 points as the game winded down, but the Hoosiers willed it to a nailbiter. As the advantage dwindled to just three points, it was Jankoska again, unaccounted for from behind the arc.
The shot gave the Spartans a six-point advantage as the game clock was nearing its inevitable end. From there, MSU didn't look back, winning its third-straight game under interim head coach Amaka Agugua.
While the Spartans gave their fans a reason to cheer them on the court, other MSU student-athletes were honored during the game as part of National Girls and Women in Sports Day. Every varsity sport had their own time on the court, much to the delight of the crowd.
"(Honoring the student-athletes) was awesome," freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon said. "A lot of things that we focus on are playing for something bigger than ourselves, like looking outside into the community and all the things that are going on around us. Having that pride to be in the program, so it was awesome to see them out here."
A key statistic, MSU improved its record to 4-0 when a quadruplet of Spartans score in double digits. Out of the five starters, four of them — graduate student forward Taya Reimer, senior guard Tori Jankoska, redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee and McCutcheon — accounted for 56 of the team's 69 points.
"We have great scorers on our team," Agugua said. "We just have to continue to empower them to have confidence in themselves. I think it's shown in the last week and tonight again."
Despite Jankoska's shots, the hero came from the graduate transfer from the University of Notre Dame — the 6-foot-4 Reimer. The Fishers, Ind. native scored 11 of her 15 points in the third quarter.
The opening minutes out of halftime proved themselves to be the significant, as Reimer quickly notched six points in a span of a little under 2:30. From there, the Spartans twisted the knife, outscoring the Hoosiers in the third, 22-13 — ultimately proving to be the difference-maker.
"We needed (Taya's early points)," Jankoska said. "Those types of things the and-ones and stuff like that give us a lot of energy. That's when we're playing our best."
While the Spartans soaked in their win, the game initially looked to swing to the Hoosiers. Down 10-4, Indiana used a 9-0 run to snatch the lead, 13-10, which it would not give up until the second half.
Despite Jankoska's late heroics, she struggled to find her shot. Following two early conversions from 3-point land, the senior looked to be cooking from deep. The opposite proved to be true as she would fail to connect until the late, clutch 3-pointer to put the Spartans up for good.
It wasn't always smooth sailing for the Spartans, as an ugly, foul-ridden first half slowed them down. Shooting just 31 percent going into halftime, the fans were distraught at the effort. After the mid-game adjustment, though, MSU boosted its efficiency to the tune of a 50 percent second half.
Next up, the Spartans will travel to Iowa City, Iowa to take on the University of Iowa on Feb. 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.