A balanced effort helped the No. 23 women’s basketball team (18-8 overall, 10-3 Big Ten) defeat Wisconsin (10-16, 3-11) Thursday night to stay in the thick of the Big Ten race, 76-66.
Freshman guard Tori Jankoska had 14 points, seven assists and five steals in a winning effort. Becca Mills led the Spartans with 15 points.
Junior center Jasmine Hines had 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and redshirt freshman Branndais Agee provided hustle off the bench with 10 points and five rebounds.
The Spartans remain tied with No. 17 Nebraska for second place. No. 9 Penn State is first with a 12-2 conference record.
Senior guard Taylor Wurtz and redshirt junior forward Michala Johnson each had 15 points for the Badgers.
Junior forward Taylor Jacki Gulczynski had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Both teams played a close game early. MSU took a 14-10 lead after a Mills bucket, but the Badgers responded with a 3-pointer.
Jankoska stole the ball and took it coast-to-coast for a layup, and senior forward Annalise Pickrel nailed a deep 3-pointer to give the Spartans a 19-13 lead with under 13 minutes remaining.
Coming out of a media timeout, Pickrel drained a corner 3-pointer and Hines powered her way to the rim to make it 24-17. Another 3-pointer from Mills and a Hines layup gave MSU a 10-point lead, 29-19, with less than eight minutes remaining.
Wisconsin sophomore guard Nicole Bauman made a 3-pointer with under six minutes left to cut the lead to five, 29-24. Agee was a source of hustle off the bench, swiping the ball at halfcourt and taking it right to the rim, splitting the free throws.
Agee struck again minutes later, taking it to the rim for a layup. Two more layups by Agee followed, and her personal 7-2 run gave MSU a 37-29 lead late in the half.
Powers scored her first basket of the game to start the second half for MSU. Merchant was forced to call a quick timeout, however, after Wurtz made three consecutive layups to narrow the score to 43-37.
Wisconsin continued to push it out of the timeout, cutting it to four after Johnson responded to Pickrel’s jumper with a turnaround move to the rim.
Jankoska nailed a deep 3-pointer with 15 minutes remaining to extend the lead to seven, 52-45. The Badgers cut it back to five, but Hines muscled her way to the rim and completed the and-1 to make it an eight point game, 55-47.
On cue, Johnson mirrored Hines with a 3-point play of her own, making it a five point game once again.
Powers later completed a 3-point play with under 11 minutes left. Jankoska then dropped a nice pass in transition to Pickrel to push it to nine, 63-54.
Wisconsin narrowed the score to five multiple times, but Powers stole the ball and laid it in with under six minutes left to make it a seven point game, 68-61. Mills made two free throws after to push the lead to nine.
Johnson hit two free throws to cut it to four, 70-66, with less than two minutes remaining. But Jankoska found Mills under the rim for a layup with 59 seconds left to seal the victory for the Spartans.
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