To call the 41-37 game between the MSU women’s basketball team and in-state rival, Michigan, a defensive battle would be an understatement.
Both teams locked down to start the game and never relented.
MSU started the scoring and held U-M without a field goal for the first 5:29 of the game, but were only able to mount a 4-1 lead before Wolverines forward Melinda Queen scored on a breakaway layup to cut the lead to one.
The Spartans hit another jumper but failed to score for more than six minutes afterward, allowing U-M to go on an 11-0 run to take the lead 14-6.
The Spartans had trouble scoring in the paint the entire half, with junior center Allyssa DeHaan being hassled by 6-foot-6 center Krista Phillips, making her first start of the season. DeHaan only attempted one field goal and pulled in two rebounds as MSU went into the locker room down 17-16.
“When they started Phillips we knew exactly why,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “She’s done a really good job of being physical with (DeHaan). I thought (DeHaan) let her get to her in the first half.”
For all of her troubles in the first half, DeHaan turned it around to start the second, scoring six of the first eight MSU points, and putting the Spartans back in the lead 24-22. She finished the game with 12 points.
The Wolverines refused to give up behind the arc as U-M forward Carly Benson brought her team back with two deep threes to give U-M the lead, 30-24.
But, the MSU defense again locked down, not allowing a basket for 9:23, going on a 12-1 run and building a 36-31 lead behind the strong play of sophomore guard Brittney Thomas.
“I did a lot of mental preparation today just to try to get out of my own head,” Thomas said. “A lot of times when I’m struggling in games it’s because I’m analyzing too much. So today, if I saw an opening, I’d go for it and play it from there. Just play basketball.”
The game remained tight down the stretch as Benson again hit a 3-pointer to bring U-M within one point, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
However, MSU was able to pull away with free throws and punctuate the win with a block by sophomore forward Kalisha Keane, as the team went on to win the game, 41-37.
“It was a very emotional game. We were all into it,” junior forward Aisha Jefferson said. “I think it was an ugly game, but we fought hard to the end and I think that’s what got us the win.”
The Spartans return to the court Sunday to play Penn State at Breslin Center. MSU defeated the Lady Lions earlier this season 67-60.