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Spartan women's basketball holds off Wisconsin, 71-67

January 30, 2014
	<p>Head coach Suzy Merchant yells on Jan. 30, 2014, at Breslin Center during the game against Wisconsin. The Spartans had just scored 2 points. Betsy Agosta/The State News</p>

Head coach Suzy Merchant yells on Jan. 30, 2014, at Breslin Center during the game against Wisconsin. The Spartans had just scored 2 points. Betsy Agosta/The State News

Photo by Betsy Agosta | The State News

A well-balanced MSU women’s basketball team held off Wisconsin, and a hot-shooting Michala Johnson, Thursday night in East Lansing.

Five players reached double figures as the Spartans (14-7 overall, 6-2 Big Ten), defeated Wisconsin (9-11, 2-6) at Breslin Center Thursday night, 71-67. MSU has sole possession of second place in the conference.

Michala Johnson was a force in the first half, scoring 19 points on 9-12 shooting. She would finish with 26 points on 12 of 16 shooting after Michigan State made the switch to zone in the second half.

Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant was not happy with the way the Spartans competed with her down low and the team’s performance.

“We couldn’t guard (her),” she said. “It was getting, to me, embarrassing. We felt like our bigs should have done a better job with that.”

The Spartans came out firing behind Tori Jankoska (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Becca Mills (13 points, 5 rebounds) to build a 9-0 run to start the game.

Annalise Pickrel (14 points 7 rebounds) and Aerial Powers (12 points and 6 rebounds) also would finish in double figures for the Spartans (14-7, 6-2) who have now won back-to-back Big 10 basketball games after falling to Penn State and Illinois last week.

A quick 5-0 run with 6:46 remaining gave MSU a 56-49 lead with 6:46 remaining, and the Spartans never looked back from there.

Kiana Johnson, who struggled in last week’s losses and did not travel with the team on Sunday for personal matters, hit a midrange jumper with less than a minute left to extend the Spartans lead to 70-65 and also put her in double figures with 11 points.

Klarissa Bell would split to give the Spartans the lead, 71-67 and put this one out of reach for Wisconsin.

Tori Jankoska was also not pleased with the performance the Spartans gave.

“I really think we just all have to have the mindset that we need to play 40 minutes to win the Big Ten,” she said. “We need to make sure we’re doing our business and then get some help from someone else and we’ll be right there.”

Morgan Paige also had 16 points for Wisconsin. This is the Badgers fourth straight loss in the Big 10 and fifth loss in their last six games.

MSU is set to face Purdue next Sunday at 1:30 in another Big 10 home game at the Breslin Center.

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