The scene was set for a night to remember for Badger fans, defeating one of the best teams in the country, remaining in a tie for first place in the Big Ten and allowing head coach Lisa Stone to celebrate her 500th career victory.
However, led by senior forward Kalisha Keane, the Spartans (19-3 overall, 7-2 Big Ten) fought back from a 12-point deficit to force
overtime and ultimately beat Wisconsin (12-10, 7-3) 73-70.
After a difficult first half, Keane found a way to pull herself together and bounce back. With 5:49 to play, the Badgers were up 56-44 and then Keane went off. She ended up tying her career-high 28 points and drilling a 3-pointer that tied the game at 60 with 11 seconds to play.
MSU head coach Suzy Merchant told Spartan Sports Network unlike most, she actually wasn’t surprised her team was able to overcome the large deficit.
“I felt like we pulled them together and their energy as actually pretty good,” Merchant said.
Cutting the 12-point lead down wasn’t easy. It started with Keane, who buried a 3-pointer to cut the Badgers lead to seven with 3:37 left in the game.
As the clock continued to wind down, the Spartans found help from an unsuspected place. Sophomore forward Courtney Schiffauer hit back-to-back free throws and followed it with a layup the next time down the court.
Schiffauer played a season-high 19 minutes and scored what might be the four most crucial points of her career thus far.
“We felt like we needed a kid out there who had some experience,” Merchant said.
“Not that (freshman guard Klarissa Bell) did something wrong, but there was something inside me and (assistant head coach Shane Clipfell) who said (Schiffauer’s) ready. She gave us great minutes, hustle plays and rebounds.”
It was senior forward Cetera Washington who brought the score to 60-57 and then followed it up with great defense on center Lin Zastrow that allowed Keane the opportunity to tie the game.
Keane went on to score seven points in overtime and the Spartans stole a chance to remain in first place from the Badgers.
After developing a reputation as the worst free-throw shooters in the conference, the Spartans came through by going 20-for-23 from the line.
“That was huge for us,” said Merchant about making their free throws.
“I thought we did a good job of attacking the paint. We did it and got them in foul trouble and got to the free throw line. We forced the kids to put the ball on the floor and attack of the bounce. That was monstrous for us.”
After a long road trip, the Spartans now will return to Breslin Center on Sunday to take on Purdue.
“Every game is tough,” Merchant said.
“It doesn’t matter if its home or away but it certainly is nice to come back to Breslin.”
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