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Turnovers doom MSU in quarterfinal loss to Wisconsin

March 15, 2009

Junior center Allyssa DeHaan walks down the court after missing a basket against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Spartans lost their first game in the tournament 56-50.

The MSU women’s basketball team failed to capitalize on an opportunity to seal the deal on an NCAA Tournament spot and, instead, put itself back on the bubble with a loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals last weekend.

The Spartans, who have now dropped three of their last four games, lost 56-50 after surrendering an early lead to a Wisconsin team whose defensive pressure forced the Spartans out of sync. It was their first game of the weekend, after drawing a first-round bye as the two-seed.

Redshirt freshman forward Lykendra Johnson and junior forward Aisha Jefferson gave an inspired effort in the final minutes to claw back within three points after Wisconsin had assumed a 47-38 lead. But it was too little, too late.

“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.”

Jefferson and Johnson had 15 and 12 points, respectively, but the Spartans committed 25 turnovers to the Badgers’ 17.

“These were turnovers for touchdowns,” MSU 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.”

Wisconsin guard Rae Lin D’Alie plagued the Green and White with a 4-for-8 shooting performance, eight rebounds and six steals.

“Our post defense was outstanding,” Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. “I thought (junior guard) Rae Lin D’Alie was unbelievable up on the ball. Our gap defense was very, very stellar and everybody did what they had do to.”

MSU jumped out to an early 21-9 edge and appeared poised to roll into the semifinals. But the Badgers found their way back into the game, denying MSU feeds into the post and good looks near the basket, capitalizing on Spartan turnovers and getting high-percentage shots. In a span of three minutes, the Badgers were back within three and rolled on to take the commanding lead they would not relinquish.

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