With the memory of falling to Nebraska in the semifinal round still lingering, Powers bounced back on Sunday, kicking off the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a historic performance.
The redshirt freshman guard, who had a double-double by halftime, finished with 26 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead MSU past Hampton at Carmichael Arena, 91-61.
Her 18 rebounds set a program NCAA Tournament record. She also added two steals, two blocks and two assists for good measure.
Despite turning the ball over three times in the opening minutes, Powers was back to her old self — drawing fouls, nailing pull-up jumpers and playing with an intensity matched by few players on the court.
“It felt good out there,” Powers said. “I tried to play within myself and not think too much when it came to taking shots or passing.”
Powers said she started off the game “pretty bad” with three turnovers, but got more comfortable with the pace of play more as time went on.
“I just tried to get into the flow a little bit. Coming out into the Nebraska game, it was a big excitement there,” she said.
Equally impressive was Powers’ defensive job on Hampton’s leading scorer, freshman guard Malia Tate-DeFreitas.
Tate-DeFreitas was held to four points on 1-of-15 shooting.
“Really challenging Aerial to be aggressive, to do it without fouling is probably to me is the thing I appreciated most of her game tonight, even with her going (for) 26 and 18 isn’t so bad,” said head coach Suzy Merchant.
Powers’ energy permeated throughout the Spartan team, which led by 32 at halftime. MSU has been a better team this season when the star freshman guard is locked in, and that was certainly the case against Hampton.
“She played great, I am so happy for her,” said senior guard Klarissa Bell. “I don’t think she had her best two games in the Big Ten Tournament, so for her to ... have a great game is something we’re going to need in order to beat this next team.”