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MSU women's basketball loses to Penn State

January 19, 2014
	<p>Junior center Madison Williams, left, and senior forward Annalise Pickrel react to the loss against Penn State on Jan. 19, 2014, at Breslin Center. The Spartans lost, 66-54. Julia Nagy/The State News </p>

Junior center Madison Williams, left, and senior forward Annalise Pickrel react to the loss against Penn State on Jan. 19, 2014, at Breslin Center. The Spartans lost, 66-54. Julia Nagy/The State News

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

It was a tale of two halves Sunday night. The women’s basketball team looked competent in the first half against No. 16 Penn State, moving the ball on offense and building a 34-27 lead at halftime.

In the second half, everything fell apart.

The Spartans shot 24 percent and gave up three pivotal offensive rebounds in the final 2:24 en route to losing its first Big Ten game of the season to the Lady Lions, 66-54. The loss ends a run of six-straight wins for MSU.

It’s the first Big Ten loss of the season between both the women’s and men’s basketball teams and the football team, who went undefeated in conference play as they marched to a Rose Bowl victory over Stanford on New Years.

The women’s basketball loss could have had a different outcome. MSU (12-6 overall, 4-1 Big Ten) failed to convert on offensive opportunities, missing point-blank layups and open 3’s and conceding rebounds on the other end.

“We were getting the shots we wanted for a period of time,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “The other thing was we stopped crashing and stopped hustling. We just kinda stood around and watched a little bit and they were the more aggressive team. That’s why they won the second half and won the game.”

Senior forward Annalise Pickrel led MSU with 17 points and six rebounds. Redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Kiana Johnson had eight assists, five turnovers and went scoreless, missing all 10 of her shots.

Redshirt sophomore guard Dara Taylor paced the Lady Lions (12-5, 4-1) with 18 points and added four steals. Senior guard Maggie Lucas scored 16 points on 5-19 shooting, and senior forward Ariel Edwards had 16 points as well and chipped in six boards.

Down eight with 2:24 remaining, redshirt freshman Aerial Powers drained two free throws to cut the deficit to six, 57-51. But the effort on the defensive boards was lacking as Penn State managed to snag three offensive rebounds in the remaining time.

Powers converted on a 3-point play to trim the score to 59-54 with 1:01 left, it wasn’t enough. After missing two of six free throws after the 2:24 mark, the Lady Lions made seven-of-eight in the last 57 seconds to ice the game.

“Definitely in crunch situations, we have to box out offensively,” said senior guard Klarissa Bell, who finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. “It was a two possession game, you know? We’ve got to box out and also coming together as a team when we’re feeling panicked. I think we were feeling panicked and then everyone was, ‘Well, I’m going to be this one-on-one player, jack up a shot.”

An 11-0 run led to Penn State taking its first lead of the game in the second half, 42-40. Pickrel was solid early on, scoring six of MSU’s first 10 points. In a highlight play, she blocked a 3-point attempt from Lucas and received the pass from Johnson in transition for a layup.

A six-minute scoring drought by MSU helped Penn State take a 53-44 lead at the 7:34 mark after being tied at 44. The Lady Lions were aided by a huge free throw disparity, highlighting the difference in aggression between each team. Penn State made 26 of 36 free throw attempts, the Spartans 9-14.

The amount of fouls might have had a role in MSU’s inability to build momentum on the offensive end, but Pickrel said the Spartans could have gotten to the line to a similar degree had they looked for it.

“Because they were attacking us, they were the aggressive ones, we were getting fouls called on us,” Pickrel said. “We weren’t doing the same thing, we weren’t taking it to them. They probably would have called the same stuff. Because they weren’t, I feel like we backed down a bit.”

With the loss, MSU, Penn State and Michigan each have 4-1 records in the Big Ten Conference. MSU defeated Michigan last Sunday at Crisler Center, 79-72.

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