Monday, November 29, 2021

5 things women’s basketball must do to beat Purdue

February 27, 2013
	<p>Purdue guard K.K. Houser tries to block sophomore guard Kiana Johnson on Jan. 27, 2013, at Breslin Center. The Spartans lost, 67-62. Julia Nagy/The State News</p>

Purdue guard K.K. Houser tries to block sophomore guard Kiana Johnson on Jan. 27, 2013, at Breslin Center. The Spartans lost, 67-62. Julia Nagy/The State News

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

The final road trip of the season for the MSU women’s basketball team could prove to be the most challenging yet for the Spartans as they travel to No. 25 Purdue (20-7 overall, 9-5 Big Ten) tonight.

MSU (20-7, 8-6) will look to avenge its 67-62 overtime loss to the Boilermakers on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind., with positioning in the NCAA and Big Ten tournaments up for grabs. The Spartans’ four-year streak of finishing second or better in the conference has been snapped.

Here are five keys to a Spartan victory:

Start strong

Stagnant starts have been a recurring problem for MSU, and Purdue is too good of a team to allow an early advantage. The past two games specifically, MSU has come out somewhat lackadaisical, resulting in just a two-point halftime lead against Northwestern and a seven-point deficit at the half against Ohio State. A small playing rotation and hostile environment aren’t the ideal combination when playing from behind.

Take the free ones

In the two teams’ first matchup, the Spartans lost by five points and went 7-for-14 from the free throw line. They can’t have such a dismal outing from the charity stripe and expect to leave Mackey Arena with a victory. Had the Spartans shot better from the line — and from the field, where they shot 30.5 percent — the first time around, they could have been looking to sweep the Boilermakers on the season tonight. MSU is the worst free throw shooting team in the conference with a 66.7 percent team average.

Think big, play big

Sophomore forward Becca Mills has tallied 41 total points in her last three games, and with two true post players in head coach Suzy Merchant’s rotation, it’s critical that Mills continues that productivity. Mills, senior forward Courtney Schiffauer and sophomore center Jasmine Hines all will need to step up defensively as well on Purdue’s Drey Mingo. Mingo dominated MSU at Breslin Center with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Hines had a forgettable first-career start that night as she went 1-for-12 from the floor. MSU needs its post players firing on all cylinders and staying out of foul trouble in this one.

Stay composed on the road

The Boilermakers own an overwhelming home-court advantage in the Big Ten, averaging nearly 3,000 more fans at home than the next best team. MSU has traveled to tough environments this season but heading to Purdue could wind up being the most difficult. The Spartans have thrived away from home under Merchant with a Big Ten-best 30-20 conference road record since she arrived in 2007, but she’s just 2-2 at Mackey Arena. Playing in a challenging environment, the onus will be on the determined, gritty defense the Spartans have relied on all season.

Kiana Johnson must be big

With 19 points to lead the Spartans in the first game, Kiana Johnson should have a huge effect on the outcome of round two with Purdue. The sophomore guard was the aggressor for MSU in the first contest and led the Spartans’ comeback effort with a pair of 3-pointers near the end of the second half. Johnson has been relatively quiet as of late, averaging just 6.4 points throughout the last five games, including a two-point outing at Ohio State on Monday. The Spartans need her to get back to her aggressive, dynamic ways scoring and distributing the ball.

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