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Spartans share love, scoring against Lakers in 88-53 rout

November 8, 2009

Sophomore forward Taja Wilson puts in a basket during the second half of Sunday’s game at Breslin Center. MSU won their second exhibition game against Grand Valley State 88-53.

Through the exhibition season, the MSU women’s basketball team appears to be as good as advertised.

Sunday’s 88-53 win against Grand Valley State was just a backdrop for the No. 10 Spartans to show once again their depth will make them a force to be reckoned with and the emphasis on offense is coming along.

But it was MSU’s defense, a strong point last season, which impressed Sunday, not allowing a point until a pair of free throws 11:02 in. By that point, Grand Valley already was down 19-2.

The Lakers didn’t make a field goal until the 13-minute mark on a jumper off a 3-on-1 break. It was Grand Valley’s first field goal in 15 tries.

MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said the defensive effort was a result of the coaching staff challenging the players to bring more intensity than they did in Thursday’s win against Wayne State.

“We weren’t jumping to the ball, we were lazy in passing lanes, we overplayed them and got beat and we hadn’t done that in practice,” Merchant said about Thursday’s game. “Our goal was kind of to take over what we did in practice and put it in the game. I know that sounds silly because it is usually the other way around.”

The work the team did in practice Friday and Saturday paid off Sunday, sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer said.

“The past two days, we really emphasized our defense,” Schiffauer said. “We all focused and buckled down on our defense a lot and I think that helped a lot in keeping them scoreless for so long.”

Turnovers were a problem for the Lakers all game long. By the 10-minute mark, they had committed 12. Merchant said the players wanted to make a defensive statement and when all was said and done, Grand Valley had racked up 36 turnovers.

“Early on, we needed to take a couple deep breaths and take care of the ball a lot better than we did,” Grand Valley head coach Janel Burgess said. “To be honest, we couldn’t put the ball in the hole the first 10 minutes and that’s going to hurt any team no matter who you are.”

Despite the rough start, Grand Valley finished shooting 36 percent and led MSU in second-half scoring until the Spartans poured it on late, with the final margin of 35 points being the team’s largest lead of the game.

Forward Elizabeth Van Tiflin was Grand Valley’s most effective player, scoring 13 points with eight rebounds in 24 minutes. She shot 5-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Guard Jasmine Padin had 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting for the Lakers, but also committed 10 turnovers.

For the Spartans, junior forward Kalisha Keane entered the starting lineup in place of senior Aisha Jefferson and responded with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Schiffauer chipped in 12 points and six rebounds and was MSU’s most consistent outside shooter, connecting on 2-of-3 tries from 3-point range.

The Spartans open the regular season Friday at Dayton, a team that went 21-14 last season and lost in the second round of the WNIT.

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