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Tournament champion dreams in reach for seniors

March 10, 2013

A collection of sights and sounds of rounds two and three of the Women’s Basketball Big Ten Tournament in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

Hoffman Estates, Ill. – The only two points Courtney Schiffauer scored all game were the two that put the Spartans on top for the first time.

The MSU women’s basketball team upset top seeded No. 8 Penn State, 54-46 without much help from Schiffauer, who only played eight minutes.

“This is such a hard thing to win, and get to this point,” Schiffauer said. “Two games against teams that are in this conference right in a row is such a hard thing to do. It’s great to see how hard everybody fought out there.”

The senior captain finished with one block and one assist to go along with her two important points, but it was another senior captain, playing in her final conference tournament, leading the charge.

Senior guard Jasmine Thomas ended the night just two points shy of her career high, scoring 19 points, grabbing six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

She said the run has been fun, but there’s still a game to be played.

“We’re there now,” Thomas said. “That was the plan coming in, to try to fight to the end. And now that we’re here, we just gotta give it our all tomorrow.”

Thomas went to a point guard camp one summer, and came back with the mindset that she needed to be the face of the team.

Head coach Suzy Merchant said Thomas’ focus during the game played a huge part in keeping the team calm when they wanted to get overexcited.

“We played way to fast and panicky out of the gate, and (Jasmine)
is one of those kids that can stay calm in the heat of battle,” Merchant said.

She said for the seniors to have a chance at the fist Big Ten Tournament championship since 2005 is a big opportunity.

“You always come here with that intent,” Merchant said.

“And you always leave sometimes when you come up short a little disappointed. It’s nice to have a chance to play for that kind of hardware and that kind of trophy.”

She said finishing off a game against Penn State isn’t a feat many teams could pull off, and with the early foul trouble MSU encountered, this game took an extra amount of heart.

With Selection Monday for the women’s NCAA tournament more than a week away, Merchant said she’s glad to keep the team on the competition court.

“You know you’re looking forward to the post season, but it’s a long time to wait,” she said. “We’re just going to go back to the hotel and get in a bubble and come back here at 3 p.m. at this point.”

For Schiffauer, Thomas and senior guard Tracy Nogle, who celebrated her birthday on Saturday, this is the way they hoped their final year would play out.

After upsetting then No. 25 Purdue at the end of the regular season, Schiffauer said the Spartans have an advantage going into the Championship game 4 p.m. Sunday.

“We just got done playing them, so we know where they’re at at this point,” she said. “We’re just going to go out there the same way the last time we played them.”

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