Junior guard Porsche Poole proved why she once was a starter this season for the 10th best women’s basketball team in the country against Minnesota on Sunday.
She only scored 10 points, but the command she had on the court was vital in carrying the No. 10 Spartans (25-4 overall, 13-3 Big Ten) to overcome a 12-point deficit and a 65-51 victory over the Golden Gophers (12-17, 4-12).
In her 18 minutes Sunday afternoon, her explosiveness impressed MSU head coach Suzy Merchant so much that the coach gave her full credit for the win.
“She was the difference maker in the second half,” Merchant said on Spartan Sports Network after the game.
With Poole igniting the team and creating shots, the Spartans were able to fend off the upset and escape Williams Arena, however with 13 minutes remaining in the second half it seemed like MSU would lose back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The Golden Gophers were leading by 12 and with junior forward Lykendra Johnson benched for the majority of the first half, Minnesota was having its way with the best rebounding team in the Big Ten on the glass.
At halftime, Minnesota was leading by seven, but its best stat was outrebounding the Spartans by 12.
“We’ve never been that bad of a disparity in any of the games that we’ve played so I was a little disappointed,” Merchant said. “Rebounding is usually effort, focus and attention to detail and we’ve been pretty good at that.”
With 13:24 left, Johnson picked up her fourth foul and Merchant chose to gamble. The Chicago native barely had been able to step on the court all game before she picked up a foul.
But the coach left Johnson in and the move — or lack thereof — paid dividends. The Spartans immediately broke out onto a 13-0 run that gave them a 46-45 lead.
“She’s someone that ignites us defensively and loves to rebound and (when) we didn’t have her on the floor, we didn’t do a very good job of post defense,” Merchant said. “At the end of the day our defense did the talking in the second half.”
With an array of 3-pointers from different sources, the Spartans would extend that run to 24-2. It was as if the Golden Gopher’s 12-point lead never happened and the Spartans had a 12-point lead of their own.
The Spartans finished knocking down 10-of-24 shots from behind the arc and Minnesota only attempted five.
Senior forward Kalisha Keane had a game-high 19 points and added eight boards, five steals and four assists. Although only playing 18 minutes, Johnson recorded 18 points and seven rebounds.
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