Wichita, Kan. — With 1:40 left in regulation the No. 4 seed MSU women’s basketball team trailed No. 5 seed Wisconsin-Green Bay, 60-50, after a free throw by Green Bay forward Sarah Eichler.
On the ensuing Spartan possession senior guard Cetera Washington dished the ball to junior guard Taylor Alton for a contested three.
After an MSU foul and two missed free throws by Green Bay guard Adrian Ritchie, the ball was in the hands of MSU senior guard Brittney Thomas. Thomas took the ball the length of the court for a contested layup. She missed, but not without grabbing her own rebound. Thomas passed to senior forward Kalisha Keane, who stood at the top of the key. Keane made the three.
Down four points, the Spartans again found themselves with the ball following a pair of missed free throws by Green Bay. Washington again threw the ball across the court to Alton on the wing. The pass was high. MSU lost possession, and ultimately the game by a score of 65-56.
Washington’s errant pass was one of 25 turnovers by MSU, more than twice as many as it had in the previous game against Northern Iowa.
“I thought (Green Bay) had us really rattled in the first half (and) at one point I think we had more turnovers than points,” head basketball coach Suzy Merchant said. “(Green Bay) had really great intensity and we didn’t match it on the offensive end and I think that got us rattled. Obviously 25 turnovers is not a good thing.”
The Spartans turned the ball over seven times within the first seven minutes of the game before Green Bay threw its first. Many turnovers came off attempted entry passes into the post to junior forward Lykendra Johnson.
MSU went into the half with 15 turnovers, after having only 12 in their previous game.
Green Bay converted those turnovers into easy points getting fastbreak layups and free throws resulting from MSU’s scrambled transition defense. The Phoenix scored 15 of their 35 first half points off turnovers and shot just under 54 percent from the field. They finished the game with 24 points off turnovers.
But the difference was in Green Bay’s role players. Ritchie lead the Phoenix with 20 points off the bench, while none of the MSU bench players scored.
With Big Ten Player of the Year Keane stuggling in the first half, shooting 1-of-7 from the field for six first half points, Johnson and senior guard Cetera Washington were the only sign of life from the Spartans in the second half.
Johnson scored four points while Washington put up five, each grabbed six rebounds. Along with crashing the boards, both players made and effort to jump in the passing lanes, box out and go to the floor for loose balls.
“Those two kids have been really tremendous for us. Cetera (Washington) is going to give it everything she can at both ends of the floor and really played with a lot of toughness out there,” Merchant said. “(Johnson) is quite a battler … everybody knows she’s a great offensive rebounder and she can still get you six, eight offensive rebounds.”
MSU finished the game with 40 rebounds, outrebounding Green Bay by 15. Johnson finished the game with eight points and 11 rebounds and Washington fouled out with nine points and 10 boards.
“The last five minutes, I thought we were right in the game it was a two possession game, one possession game going back and forth … I felt like we still were fighting,” Keane said, pausing to regain her composure.
“That’s why I have so much respect for my teammates.”
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