Sunday, March 26, 2023

Suzy's signature win

Win over No. 1 seeded Duke sends Spartans to first Sweet 16 since ’06

The MSU women’s basketball team talks about its 63-49 victory over top-seeded Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans move on to play Iowa State in the Sweet 16 on Saturday, March 28 in Berkeley, Calif.

Photo by Joe Terry | The State News

It had to be perfect.

To beat No. 1-seed Duke, the No. 9-seed MSU women’s basketball team had to limit turnovers, storm the glass and play staunch defense.

The Spartans did just that, pounding Duke 63-49 and advancing to the Sweet 16 to play No. 4 seed Iowa State in Berkeley, Calif.

The game was back and forth until the last few minutes when junior center Lauren Aitch and senior guard Mia Johnson took over the game.

The momentum swung in the Spartans favor when redshirt freshman Lykendra Johnson made a pretty pass to Aitch underneath the basket for a layup that put the Spartans up 49-47. Aitch followed that with an and-one putback layup, putting the Spartans up by four.

After Aitch hit the free throw, Mia Johnson spun through the lane, netting a layup and putting the score out of reach, as MSU went up 53-47. The Spartans closed the game on a 16-2 run over the final five minutes to win the game 63-49.

MSU became the first No. 9-seeded team in the tournament to knock off a No. 1-seed since Notre Dame beat Texas Tech 74-59 in 1998.

“We were going four minutes at a time,” Johnson said. “We were going by who would win the four-minute battles. We just came out and went by that.”

MSU headed into the locker room up 25-20. The Blue Devils closed the lead immediately after halftime, as Duke forward Chante Black fought inside and scooped a layup. An Abby Waner 3-pointer the next possession brought the score to an even 25-25.

Black, the Blue Devils’ leading scorer averaging 14.5 points per game, was held scoreless for the rest of the game and finished the night with only four points and eight rebounds.

“We’re a strong defensive team and the big key was to pack the paint in,” junior center Allyssa DeHaan said. “Our post players really stepped up and we just did a great job of not fouling and boxing them out. They’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams we’ve come up against and we did a great job of not fouling them and getting the boards.”

“It was a hustle game, a broken play game,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Obviously we didn’t do our part to make it a better game.”

The crowd in Breslin Center stormed the court following the win, engulfing the players and capping the win.

“It just felt good,” Johnson said. “When we come to play anything can happen and that is what we’re banking on. Last night we got together as a team and talked about what we wanted to accomplish today. With the grace of God we are here and we executed our game plan.”

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