Redshirt junior center Madison Williams had a feeling Sunday would be Tori Jankoska’s day.
Suffering from an extended shooting slump, the Spartans would need a better shooting performance from Jankoska if they wanted to close the non-conference portion of the season on a positive note.
Acting on her premonition, Williams pulled the freshman guard aside before the game and gave her words of encouragement.
“Everyone was really amped up for the game, really ready. We had had a lot of days of practice. I pulled her aside and said ‘I feel something today,” Williams said. “I feel you’re ready today.’”
Williams was correct. Jankoska had a career offensive game, helping the Spartans (8-5 overall) defeat Colgate (4-7) by a 50-point margin, 96-46. MSU shot 50 percent from the field and drained 10 3-pointers on 20 tries.
Jankoska finished with a career-high 25 points on 7-12 shooting, hitting a career-best six threes on nine attempts and 5-6 at the line. She added four assists and two blocks to her stat line.
“Tori is a pretty gifted player as far as her skill, the way she can get things done. Not just behind the arc, but she does a nice job handling it, directing traffic,” said head coach Suzy Merchant. “She has a high IQ for the game, she can do some things.”
Jankoska failed to score a field goal during the Puerto Rico Classic, so hitting her first shot of the game against Colgate was a sigh of relief.
“The game prior, I just wasn’t hitting shots, and when I’m not hitting shots, I’m out of my whole groove,” she said. “It’s like part of my game. I have to have that to be able to do more than just shoot on the court.”
“It was nice to see a whole game with passing and defense and shooting. Everything was put together in this game.”
Redshirt freshman guard Branndais Agee scored 13 points and hauled nine rebounds. Senior guard Klarissa Bell had 11 points, and redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers had 10 points and nine rebounds. Williams had seven points and eight rebounds in 11 minutes.
Thanks to stout Spartan defense and more than a few tough-luck misses, the Raiders only shot 25.4 per cent for the game and 21.4 per cent from behind the arc.
“We’re much improved defensively, which helps ease your mind a little bit,” Merchant said. “It was nice to see both sides of the ball, whether it was freshmen or returning kids, show we have the ability to stop people and score at the same time.”
Lansing native and Waverly High School graduate Carole Harris, who plays for the Raiders, finished with five points, five rebounds and three assists in 27 minutes.
The 3-point barrage began early, as senior guard Annalise Pickrel and junior guard Kiana Johnson drained three’s to give MSU an early 6-3 lead. Jankoska’s hot shooting helped the Spartans go on a 15-2 run to take a 29-13 lead midway through the half.
Williams played seven first-half minutes, hitting two jumpers and showcasing her sound defensive fundamentals on the other end. MSU shot 50 per cent from both the field and from behind the arc (7-14), to enter halftime with a 44-21 lead.
After struggling in the first half, Bell found her offense early in the second half, hitting her first three shots and scoring eight points to help push the lead to 38, 61-23. Powers also took on a stronger
The 17-2 run allowed sophomore guard Cara Miller, Agee and sophomore guard Mariah Harris Harris to play garbage time minutes. Each made several key plays down the stretch as the lead ballooned.
Things got more difficult for Colgate after guard Mariah Jones, who scored a team-high 10 points, left the game midway through the second half after getting tangled up with Williams and hitting the floor. She was helped off the court and didn’t return.
The crowd gasped audibly when Williams hit the floor, but she calmly gathered herself and drained both free throws.
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“My comfort level is getting a lot better, actually,” Williams said. “It’s just a mental thing and every game I’m feeling a lot better, even though I don’t feel that I’m doing anything I should be production-wise. I’m a perfectionist, so I see all the negative stuff.”
Jankoska took a backseat offensively in the second half, but her sixth 3-pointer of the night gave the Spartans a 54-point lead, 93-54 with two minutes remaining. She took a charge on the other end to cap off her career night.
With the non-conference portion of the schedule over, the Spartans look forward to playing Minnesota on the road on Jan. 4 to begin Big Ten play.
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