Thursday, April 18, 2024

Season's finish isn't sweet

Spartans surrender 7 point lead in final 69 seconds as Cyclones storm way to Elite Eight

Junior forward Aisha Jefferson falls to the floor after MSU lost to Iowa State in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game. The Spartans lost 69-68.

Photo by Nichole Hoerner | The State News

Berkeley, Calif. — One minute away from the Elite Eight, the MSU women’s basketball team saw its dreams snatched from its grip, as Iowa State walked out of Haas Pavilion victorious 69-68 on Saturday in a Berkley Regional semifinal game. The Spartans held a seven point lead with 1:27 to play after junior forward Aisha Jefferson spun through the lane and hit a shot to give the Spartans a 68-61 advantage. But a flurry of Iowa State 3-pointers, including one that banked off the glass, sent MSU packing as the Cyclones went on an 8-0 run over the final 69 seconds of the game.

“I’ve been coaching a long time and that was one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of,” Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly said. “Michigan State is amazing. Suzy (Merchant) does such a great job. That was a great college game. That is what this game is about and that’s what the Sweet 16 is supposed to be about.”

Last-second attempts at the basket by Jefferson and redshirt freshman forward Lykendra Johnson were met with a lot of contact but went to the wayside as the Cyclones stormed the court in victory.

The Spartans started the game off fast, quickly jumping to a 7-0 lead before the Cyclones had a chance to respond. MSU would spread the lead to nine before Iowa State began to make a comeback in the first half.

“Early in the game we were stunned,” Fennelly said. “(MSU) came out and just popped us in the mouth and we just recoiled.”

Iowa State took back the lead by hitting its shots from deep, something that ultimately won the Cyclones the game. Iowa State’s 10 3-pointers in the game are the most MSU has given up in a single game all season. The Cyclones have now hit 36 threes through their first three games in the tournament.

In addition to the long ball, Iowa State got to the line 14 more times than the Spartans, hitting 19-of-23 free throws, to MSU’s 8-of-9. The Spartans’ physical style of play seemed to backfire against them, and at one point in the game, there was a 17-6 discrepancy in fouls in Iowa State’s favor.

“I don’t really have any feelings on that except obviously it is disappointing,” Merchant said. “It felt like we were doing a pretty good job of defending them. There were some tough calls and we had to sit some kids. I give Iowa State credit for trying to keep coming at us. I felt we did the same thing. I thought we were doing a good job of attacking. We didn’t just quite attack hard enough to get the final call and get ourselves to the foul line.”

The Spartans had a season low 10 turnovers in the loss and shot 40 percent from behind the arc and 50 percent from the field. Junior center Allyssa DeHaan had a season-high 24 points in the loss to go with eight rebounds and five blocked shots. MSU finished the season with a 22-11 overall record.

“We are certainly disappointed in the outcome,” Merchant said. “It felt like we had that one. It slipped away a little bit. You have to give Iowa State credit for making (their shots). They took it from us a little bit down the stretch. They pulled one out, but I was proud of our kids and everybody.”

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