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Spartans drop first game as a top-25 team to Nebraska

January 24, 2013

Kiana Johnson did her best to carry the No. 25 MSU women’s basketball team to a win in its first-ever trip to Nebraska tonight. In their first game as a ranked team since the end of 2011, the Spartans fell to Nebraska 59-54.

The sophomore guard scored a career-high 22 points while the Spartans struggled to a combined 32.2 shooting percentage from the field.

Prior to the match up with the Cornhuskers, MSU (16-3 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) had held every opponent’s leading scorer under their season average. Nebraska (14-6, 4-3) forward Jordan Hooper, who averages 17.8 points per game, broke the season-long streak by finishing with 25 tonight.

It was an uncharacteristic shooting night for guard Klarissa Bell and forward Annalise Pickrel, each finishing with two points apiece. The pair of juniors went 1-for-9 and 1-for-7 from the floor, respectively. Pickrel, MSU’s sharpshooter, was 0-for-4 from 3-point range.

Senior forward Courtney Schiffauer made big plays early in the second half that had the potential to swing momentum in MSU’s favor. On back-to-back possessions the captain had a three-point play and knocked down a 3-pointer to close the Cornhuskers’ lead to three.

Nebraska seized control late on its home floor by taking advantage of a Spartan field goal drought of more than eight minutes, which Johnson finally ended on a 3-pointer with 3:26 left to play.

The Cornhuskers’ Lindsey Moore hit a pair of free throws with 1:15 left to increase the margin to double-digits, 58-48. MSU forced two turnovers in the final minute but it was too little, too late.

A potentially interesting development going forward is head coach Suzy Merchant’s decision to start Johnson and sophomore center Jasmine Hines in the place of Pickrel and sophomore forward Becca Mills to begin the second half. Mills went 0-for-4 in six minutes of action.

The Spartans return home for their next contest against Purdue at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

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