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Behind another double-double for Ariel Powers women's basketball tops Wisconsin

January 25, 2015
<p>Sophomore guard Tori Jankoska dribbles the ball down the court during a game against Wisconsin Jan. 25, 2015, at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Badgers, 77-71. Alice Kole/ The State News</p>

Sophomore guard Tori Jankoska dribbles the ball down the court during a game against Wisconsin Jan. 25, 2015, at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Badgers, 77-71. Alice Kole/ The State News

Photo by Alice Kole | The State News

The women’s basketball team defeated Wisconsin, 77-71, in a very close game Sunday. With a lot of fight, the team was able to break through the tight Wisconsin defense and bring home the win, after coming back from 85-56 loss against Maryland on Thursday.

“That was a rough one,” freshman Kennedy Johnson said. “We took a mental day to put ourselves together.”

Johnson came in from the bench and scored a season-high of 11 points. It also was a career high, which helped her team succeed on the court against the Badgers.

“(We’re) probably just tired of losing, so we got hype and came out strong,” Johnson said.

Redshirt sophomore Aerial Powers and Wisconsin junior Nicole Bauman led the game in points scored, sinking in 23 points each. Powers now ranks second in the NCAA in double-doubles.

Close behind was sophomore Tori Jankoska, with 19 points.

As a coach, Suzy Merchant said she believes Powers is an important part of Spartan history, and is glad to have the player in such a frustrating season.

“She affects the game,” Merchant said. “That kid is strong and competitive and affects the ball in so many ways.”

MSU kicked off the game on top and stayed there until the last second of the first half, when the Badgers scored two points and topped the Spartans, 34-33.

During the second half, the game remained a one-point game until a little more than 14 minutes were left in the second half, with MSU and Wisconsin alternating between who had the lead.

“Defense is for sure always a focus, (like) keeping our man in front of us,” Jankoska said about what turned the game to MSU’s advantage.

At that point, Jankoska made two free-throws and put the Spartans three points ahead of the Badgers, 44-41.

“We’ve known the roster for a while now, we just haven’t gotten it together,” Powers said about the seven eligible players. “We all contributed in every category today.”

The Spartans began to open up their lead, which made it difficult for Wisconsin to catch up. Merchant said that her team was present in both offense and defense, and that the bench players had a critical role in the win.

“We got 18 points off the bench today ... hopefully it’s not a one-time thing,” she said.

When MSU began to widen the gap between their score and the Badgers’ score, the crowd chanted wildly in every play.

Many of the younger fans, mostly girls who were part of the Girl Scout Day at Breslin Center, were credited for the noise and excitement when they cheered for the team.

The Spartans seemed put together after a couple months of uncertainty.

“We haven’t had someone transfer or get hurt in a couple of week, so we’re turning that corner,” Jankoska said. “We’re finally getting some chemistry.”

MSU will take on Indiana at 7 p.m Thursday at Breslin Center.

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“As a coach, I’m competitive,” Merchant said. “I believe there had to be some consistency throughout the kids.”

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