The MSU women’s basketball team got back to basics in Thursday’s night victory against Michigan: defense and rebounding.
After allowing 77 points and being outrebounded by 10 in Sunday’s loss to Iowa, the Spartans turned that around in an impressive fashion, winning the rebounding margin by nine and the game by five, 50-45, at Crisler Arena.
“I thought we really did a nice job defensively,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said.
“I did like our effort on the defensive side of the ball through the rebound in the second half. I thought that was big to make sure they were one-and-done.”
Senior center Allyssa DeHaan, who tied the NCAA Division I record for blocks early in the second half, said the coaching staff put the rebounding bubble on the basket during practice to emphasize hitting the glass.
“We are not fans of the bubble,” DeHaan said. “(Rebounding) was a big key pounded into our heads the entire week and it showed.”
The strong defense helped jump-start MSU’s transition offense. Junior forward Kalisha Keane led MSU with 12 points, while junior guard Brittney Thomas added 10.
The Spartans shut down U-M’s 3-point shooting for the most part in the first half. The Wolverines, who rank second in the Big Ten in 3-point attempts, hit two of their 12 shots from deep.
Still, it didn’t show on the scoreboard as much as the Spartans would’ve liked. U-M went down 10 but closed the half on an 8-1 run as MSU led 25-22 at halftime.
U-M kept the momentum heading into the second half. Forward Carmen Reynolds opened the scoring with a bucket, and a free throw from guard Dayeesha Hollins tied the game at 25. Things looked to be going U-M’s way until MSU snatched the momentum right back.
It started with junior forward Cetera Washington breaking MSU’s 9:49 scoring drought. Then junior forward Kalisha Keane took over, scoring seven straight for MSU. The Spartans ripped off a 16-2 run to take a 41-27 lead as the Wolverines, like the Spartans before, went cold from the field.
“The one field goal that started us on that stretch was Cetera, who’s not much of an offensive threat usually, so that’s good to see,” Merchant said. “But Kalisha’s been really big for us and has sparked us in a lot of different ways. When she scores the ball it certainly opens things up for other people. She was a real catalyst for us tonight.”
Reynolds, the Wolverines’ leading scorer at 13.5 points per game, struggled on the night, shooting 1-of-6 from the field.
Her lone basket came early in the second half and it was the only U-M field goal in the first 11 minutes. The Wolverines limped out from the locker room by going 1-of-11 start from the field and shot 28.8 percent on the night.
“We had open looks,” U-M head coach Kevin Borseth said. “We had really good looks in the first half. We didn’t make them. And we missed free throws. We had good looks. We didn’t make them. Good looks. Wide open. Wide open. Wide, wide, wide open. We didn’t make them.”
Reynolds wasn’t the only Wolverine to struggle. Center Krista Phillips, who scored 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting when the two teams first met, was blanked by MSU this time to the tune of 0-for-11 from the field in 30 minutes. The duo, which scored 30 points against MSU in the teams’ previous meeting, managed only three Thursday.
“I think we had a higher focus on Carmen Reynolds and Krista Phillips this time around,” Merchant said.