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Johnson plays key role in women's basketball victory

January 30, 2014

On a night where the Spartans played a little too much one-on-one ball, as has been the case in the past few games, it was junior guard Kiana Johnson that kept the offense moving on Thursday against Wisconsin in a 71-67 MSU victory.

Johnson struggled in two losses last week and didn’t travel to Columbus, Ohio with the team on Sunday to take on Ohio State. But she was back to her usual self on Thursday, scoring 11 points and dishing four assists opposite of one turnover in 25 minutes off the bench.

“Obviously it was her turn to get back and I thought she did a good job,” head coach Suzy Merchant said after the game. “Four assists, one turnover, she made her free throws when she needed to. It’s good to see her be out there and contribute”

With Wisconsin threatening a comeback late in the game, Johnson nailed a clutch jumper with 30 seconds left to push the lead to five, 70-65. She displayed her usual command of the ball and was a reason why six Spartans finished in double figures.

“I thought Kiana was big for us during that stretch too, she made some shots and got some stops, doing a much better job down the stretch than we had been at times,” Merchant said.

The Spartans did not struggle with Johnson’s absence on Sunday, but tonight, she showed why MSU is a step better with her on the court.

“It was good to have her out there,” said freshman guard Tori Jankoska, who started in Johnson’s place for the second straight game. “She really does balance us out and she has the ability to take control of the team, she has a calming presence, and when we get pressure, she knows what to do. She won’t turn the ball over and we can have trust in her to do that.”

Merchant said after the game that she’s still dissatisfied with the team’s play on offense. Too often, players are looking for their own shot, leading to out-of-sync play on that end of the court.

“We’ve become kinda one-hit wonders,” Merchant said. “We jack up shots, we don’t rebound in coverage… suddenly everyone becomes a one-on-one player. Everyone’s gotta do it themselves. That’s why putting Kiana in sometimes, at least you have one player that’s thinking ‘run offense,’ and not about shooting the ball all the time.”

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