Monday, June 17, 2024

Spartans women shut down against Badgers in Big Ten Tournament loss

Junior forward Aisha Jefferson slides across the floor after being fouled at the women’s basketball game against Wisconsin at the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday.

Indianapolis — The MSU women’s basketball team didn’t get the payback it was looking for against Wisconsin on Friday, losing 56-50 in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.

MSU started out with an early advantage, getting the ball into the paint and getting to the free throw line, a formula that has been the bread and butter of the MSU offense all season. On way to a 14-5 start, MSU scored all but two points in the paint or from the line.

After a pair of jumpshots from Wisconsin found their mark, the Spartans lead was stretched even further when sophomore forward Kalisha Keane and junior center Allyssa DeHaan hit back-to-back three-pointers to give MSU a 21-9 edge.

However, the Badgers fought back – slowly closing the lead by causing turnovers and scoring in transition. In three minutes, Wisconsin cut the Spartans’ 12-point lead to three, as little-used forward Caitlin Gibson gave the Badgers quality minutes, pushing inside for a layup to bring the score to 23-20.

MSU freshman forward Lykendra Johnson hit a 3-pointer a minute later to end the scoring for the half and send the Spartans into the locker room up 26-20.

But the Badgers kept that first half momentum rolling as they came out of the break. Forward Tara Steinbauer almost personally brought Wisconsin back into the game, getting to the line for two free throws then, after a steal and a bucket by guard Rae Lin D’Alie, hit a 3-pointer and two more layups to tie the score at 31-31.

The Spartans would take the lead again though, as junior forward Aisha Jefferson drove through the lane and scooped in a layup to give MSU a 35-33 lead.

Immediately following that play, Johnson was called for a technical foul as she tried to get untangled with a Wisconsin player. Badgers guard Alyssa Karel hit one of the two free throws, dwindling the Spartans lead to 35-34.

“Our arms got tangled up,” Johnson said. “I tried to get myself off of her and (the official) ended up calling a deadball tech.”

Wisconsin took the lead soon after that, as Karel and forward Lin Zastrow took control of the game, leading the Badgers on a 13-3 run to take commanding 47-38 lead.

MSU fought back as Jefferson and Johnson picked up the pace, bringing the Spartans within a shot of tying the game, 53-50.

But, the Spartans couldn’t muster any more points, as Wisconsin hit its free throws, icing the game and sending MSU back to East Lansing with a 56-50 loss.

“That late, because we were running out of time, we’re just trying to turn it up at the end, just because we were running out of time,” Jefferson said. “We should have started like that the second half, and we were just thinking about trying to score at that time.”

Turnovers killed the Spartans: They committed 25 in the game to Wisconsin’s 19.

“These were turnovers for touchdowns,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “We’ve been turning it over, but they haven’t been as severe. And then obviously today, I mean it was give it up to them. We didn’t want any part of stepping up, and we couldn’t get into the scoring pocket to run our offense.”

The Spartans must wait until Mar. 16 to find out if they will play in the NCAA Tournament. MSU hosts the first two rounds of this season’s tournament for women’s basketball.

Stay tuned to statenews.com for coverage of more Spartans sports action in conference tournaments throughout the break.

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