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Spartans lose to hot-shooting IPFW, 81-76

December 1, 2013
	<p>Junior forward Becca Mills defends <span class="caps">IPFW</span> guard Rachel Mauk Dec. 1, 2013, at Breslin Center. <span class="caps">IPFW</span> defeated <span class="caps">MSU</span>, 81-74. Margaux Forster/The State News</p>

Junior forward Becca Mills defends IPFW guard Rachel Mauk Dec. 1, 2013, at Breslin Center. IPFW defeated MSU, 81-74. Margaux Forster/The State News

It’s tough to win when the opposing team shoots north of 50 percent, both overall and from beyond the arc.

IPFW accomplished both tasks Sunday night, upsetting the No. 21 women’s basketball team (5-2 overall) 81-76 at Breslin Center. The win for IPFW was the program’s first over a Big Ten opponent and also a ranked team in program history.

The Mastodons entered the game averaging 33 percent shooting from the perimeter, but hit 13 of 23 3-pointers and shot 53.7 percent for the game. The Spartans looked lackadaisical at times on the defensive end, failing to close out on jumpers and giving up layups under the rim.

Head coach Suzy Merchant said the mindset of bringing intensity and energy on the defensive end has to start with the leaders on the team. Right now, the team lacks those qualities.

“There’s just not a sense of urgency on the defensive end,” said head coach Suzy Merchant. “We just struggled, and we work on it every day, every single day, every day. You have to give them a lot of credit, they shot it extremely, extremely well.”

Senior forward Annalise Pickrel, who finished with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists, said it comes down to herself, senior guard Klarissa Bell, junior forward Becca Mills and junior guard Kiana Johnson to set the standard for the rest of the team.

“Everyone out there is just pointing fingers at what people are and are not doing, so I think we really just need to sit back and evaluate ourselves and we just need to find a mesh.” Pickrel said. “The freshman are supposed to look to people to follow and to resemble to what they’re doing and we’re not doing it.”

Redshirt freshman forward Aerial Powers had 28 points on 11-17 shooting and 14 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end. Freshman guard Tori Jankoska finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two steals. Johnson had six points and 11 assists.

Five Mastodons finished in double-figures. Amanda Hyde led IPFW with 23 points and seven assists. Ariana Simmons had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Rachel Mauk had 14 points and six assists.

MSU trailed by 12 with just over eight minutes left in the game, but a comeback effort spearheaded by Jankoska, who scored six of her points in the final six minutes, ultimately fell short.

Jankoska snapped a 12-0 run with a midrange jumper with 7:30 left. Bell drained a three — her first make of the game — to cut the lead to 65-58 with 6:26 on the clock.

Mur Hagerman hit a 3 to extend IPFW’s lead back to 10, 70-60. Mills split a pair at the line to cut it back to nine. Johnson picked up a steal on the ensuing play, and Jankoska nailed 2 to trim the lead back to seven, 70-63.

The Spartans continued the late-game run, stealing another ball in transition, which led to Jankoska making a fast break layup. A media timeout was called with 4:23 on the clock and the Spartans trailing by 5, 70-65.

Hyde hit a tough falling layup to extend the lead to 7 with under four minutes left, and Pickrel was called for a foul on the other end. But after a turnover, Jankoska found Pickrel under the rim, cutting it back to five with under three minutes left.

Seibert hit two free throws with just over a minute left to push the lead to seven, 76-69. MSU managed to cut the score to three with three seconds left, 79-76, but Hyde iced the game with two free throws to send IPFW home with a win, 81-76.

IPFW head coach Chris Paul credited a tough preseason schedule that saw losses to Indiana and Wichitaw State for the win over MSU. The Mastodons now have won four straight after dropping the first four games of the season.

“Forget about that it’s Michigan State, just go out and play and treat it like a home game,” Paul told his team before the game. “Our kids came out with that mentality.

“We believed in what we were doing in, we came in and knocked some shots down.”

Powers called the game a “wake-up call.” With a road game against Florida State approaching, the team needs to find answers to its defensive struggles.

“I don’t think anyone in the gym today was expecting this at all,” she said. “This was definitely a shot. Definitely a low blow to us. I think we kind of overlooked the team also and that’s what led to this.”

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