Monday, November 29, 2021

Women's basketball takes down Wisconsin, clinches first round bye in Big Ten tournament

March 3, 2013
Senior guard Tracy Nogle hugs senior forward Courtney Schiffauer after the game March 3, 2013, at Breslin Center. MSU beat Wisconsin 54-48. Danyelle Morrow/The State News
Senior guard Tracy Nogle hugs senior forward Courtney Schiffauer after the game March 3, 2013, at Breslin Center. MSU beat Wisconsin 54-48. Danyelle Morrow/The State News —
Photo by Danyelle Morrow | and Danyelle Morrow The State News

Jasmine Thomas missed the final shot she ever took at Breslin Center in a Spartan uniform – a free throw with 2.3 seconds left in the game and a six-point lead in hand. But it doesn’t matter to her.

“It is what it is, I’m not going to make every one,” Thomas joked.

Luckily for the senior guard, she and her teammates made enough of them to power the MSU women’s basketball team to a 54-48 win in the regular season finale over Wisconsin. In her final game on the Breslin floor, Thomas, a captain from Flint, Mich., finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals.

The win guaranteed the Spartans a top-four finish in the Big Ten and subsequent first-round bye in the conference tournament this week. For a team with as much mileage on it as MSU — the Spartans were short-handed in the early goings this season with two players suspended and three suffering season-ending injuries — the extra day of rest will be invaluable.

MSU (22-7 overall, 10-6 Big Ten) will be the No. 4 seed in the tournament bracket after Purdue topped Illinois this afternoon and awaits the winner of Thursday’s Indiana-Michigan first-round contest.

“That’s big,” head coach Suzy Merchant said of the bye.

“We just didn’t want to have to play — it didn’t matter who. I mean, the tournament’s going to be so hard. I don’t know what (Wisconsin’s) seed is going to be, but they have been in every game.”

It was an even scoring attack for the Spartans against Wisconsin (11-18, 3-13) with eight different MSU players logging field goals. Sophomore guard Kiana Johnson had 10 points and five assists while junior forward Annalise Pickrel finished with nine points.

The Spartans held Wisconsin to a 30.8 shooting percentage from the floor in the first half and carried a 30-23 lead into the locker room in front of a season-high crowd of 14,024.

Merchant said her team’s defense, which has been the top scoring defense in the conference all season, is one positive aspect the Spartans hope to keep rolling into the post-season.

“Now that it’s ahead of us, that’s very important that we have that bye,” Pickrel said. “I think for our core group, and how hard we have to play defensively, to have a successful game it’s important that we have a bye.”

Since it was senior day, guard Tracy Nogle from Okemos got the ceremonial start — the first of her career — and played the first minute before being replaced by sophomore guard Kiana Johnson.

The other two senior starters, Thomas and forward Courtney Schiffauer, scored the first six points of the second half to begin to pull away from the Badgers. MSU used a 10-3 run to build its largest lead of the night, 40-26, in the first four minutes of the second half.

Schiffauer finished with four points and four rebounds in her last home game.

Wisconsin never quit, though, and erased the Spartan lead to five points or less on three occasions in the game’s final 10 minutes.

A jumper from Thomas put MSU ahead 52-47 with 2:31 remaining. The Badgers turned it over on their next two possessions, but neither resulted in points for the Spartans.

After Wisconsin took a timeout with 32 seconds to play, the Badgers’ Morgan Paige was fouled driving to the rim. Paige sunk the first one, leaving her team down four, but missed the second. Thomas hauled in the rebound and was promptly sent to the foul line, where she hit the pair of free throws for the final points of the game and of her career at Breslin Center.

“Your record isn’t really indicative of the type of team you are,” Merchant said. “This is a tough league and some people are playing better now, and some people are dropping. But at the end of the day I think we’re happy we just don’t have to play on that first day.”

With a roster that’s logged as many minutes as MSU has, it’s safe to say the players are happy with the extra day of preparation.

“We were just talking in the locker room … it was like if such-and-such wins we’re third, if such-and-such wins we’re fourth, but it was like either way we still got the bye,” Thomas said. “That was kind of like a (relief) for me because I know four games in four days is not good.”

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