MSU hosted Georgia Tech as part of the ACC/Big Ten challenge, and after falling behind early, the Spartans needed overtime to claw out a tough 79-73 victory.
The Spartans (5-1 overall) got off to a very slow start and appeared out of sync as Georgia Tech (5-4 overall) jumped to a 20-11 lead at the 11:45 mark. The Yellow Jacket full-court press had the Spartans looking lost at times, and GT forced nine MSU turnovers by the end of the half.
Sophomore forward Aerial Powers did her best to will the Spartans back in it, and with just under four minutes left in the half, she unleashed a terrific series of plays. Starting with a block on the defensive end, Powers followed up with a strong offensive putback, and then sent a baseball pass to junior guard Cara Miller streaking down the sideline who finished for two, narrowing GT’s lead to 12 with 2:40 left in the half.
MSU was able to trim the lead to ten, but a Georgia Tech three to beat the first-half buzzer put the Yellow Jackets up 40-27 at the break.
Coming out of halftime, MSU scored seven straight points to pick up an early momentum swing and by the 15:52 mark, the Spartans trailed by just five. In this span, emotions ran high and both Powers and Georgia Tech senior guard Sydney Wallace were each called for technical fouls after an after-whistle altercation.
“I thought they were gonna throw her out of the game,” Merchant said about Powers. “I didn’t see what happened. Thankfully, it was double technicals but I thought she could be gone.”
MSU took its first lead of the game at the 13:57 mark after senior forward Jasmine Hines finished an and-one to put the Spartans on top 48-46.
The rest of the half was tight, and by the final minute, both teams were still jockeying for position. Georgia Tech’s Wallace made two huge threes to tie the game on separate occasions. MSU had the ball with a chance for the final possession and shot, but Powers lost the ball along the three-point line, and GT recovered it.
Wallace dribbled out most of the game clock and pulled a three to win it, but the shot fell short of the rim. With .7 seconds left, MSU had a chance to win it when a long pass from sophomore guard Tori Jankoska got over the head of the last GT defender to Powers, whose shot fell just short of the rim at the buzzer.
“That kid is so streaky," Merchant said of Wallace. "She can really be one or really be
off. She was on, and we didn’t adjust. I was really disappointed actually…that kid is a three-point shooter or a one or two dribble
pull-up jump shooter. For us just to stand there with late clock…I was disappointed
with how we handled her.”
In overtime, Powers fouled out with 3:47 left. MSU was on the ropes, but a three-pointer from senior guard Anna Morrissey and four free throws from senior center Jasmine Hines helped the Spartans take the lead. Jankoska iced the game with two more free throws and the Spartans pulled out a close win.
"To know we can come back from (16) down in the first half….I
was never really nervous, like we were gonna get blown out," Jankoska said. "I knew we were just
playing not as well as we could. I think this gives us momentum going into this
weekend’s game and then hopefully carries over to the Big Ten conference games.”
Jankoska finished with 21 points and seven assists, and Powers tallied 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists, good for her sixth straight double-double.
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