FINAL: MSU falls to Maryland in Merchant's return to bench, 89-72
With only five games left in the regular season for MSU women’s basketball, the Spartans took the court to face nationally ranked No. 3 University of Maryland. The last time the Spartans met Maryland, it was in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, a game they would go on to lose. The Spartans would go on to fall to the Terrapins in the rematch, 89-72.
After missing six games due to her medical leave, head coach Suzy Merchant returned to the bench for the matchup against the Terrapins.
From the very first basket of the game, Maryland had the lead over the Spartans. With effective screens and post players under the basket, the Terrapins never had a lead under four points. The Spartans were off to a slow start, but during bits and pieces of the game they gained momentum.
The Spartans were successful on the court when they were quickly passing and making quick shots. Freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon had a problem of dribbling too much in the zone, causing time to easily run out before effectively being able to run the play.
Adding to the intensity of the game, senior guard Tori Jankoska landed a 3-pointer that made her the first MSU women’s basketball player to reach 2,000 career points. She had trouble scoring early on in the game, but did fine on the assisting side of things with three in the first half. Jankoska finished the half with 13 points.
To start the second half, after only a few minutes in the third quarter, it was apparent that Maryland wasn’t letting go of its established lead. The Spartans were playing cleaner compared to the first half, but Maryland often put both Brionna Jones and Stephanie Jones to stop Spartan shooters to get to the basket.
Maryland established its largest lead of the game with 18 points over the Spartans. During the entire game free throw shooting was a problem for the Spartans. They were 6-for-15 from the free-throw line. Freshman forward Nia Hollie missed all four of her free throws, while redshirt-freshman forward Victoria Gaines was only 3-for-6.
Maryland had six players scoring at least five points, two of them being in double-digits. Senior Brionna Jones was effective under the basket. She leads the nation with the best field goal percentage of 69.2 percent. Brionna Jones led Maryland with 28 points, 15 total rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Walker-Kimbrough was right behind her with 24 points, 3-for-4 from the free-throw line, four rebounds, three assists and one steal.
MSU had three players in double digits, but still was not enough to take down the Terrapins. Graduate student forward Taya Reimer went up against Brionna Jones all throughout the game, with 3:25 left she fouled out of the game after receiving her fifth foul. Fouling out right behind her was junior forward Kennedy Johnson with only 1:40 left in the fourth.
Reimer scored 11 points, had four rebounds and five assists. The second-leading scorer of the game was redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee, who sank two key 3-pointers which got the ball rolling for MSU on both occasions. Agee being very active on the court had 16 points, led rebounds with 6 with one assist.
Jankoska led the Spartans in scoring with 23 points on 8-for-19 shooting, she was 5-for-13 beyond the 3-point line. The guard was 2-for-2 for her free throws, she had five total rebounds, five assists and one steal.
The loss dropped the Spartans' Big Ten record to 6-6 on the season. MSU only has four more conference games left on its regular season before the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans will be back at the Breslin Center to take on the University of Minnesota in a rematch Feb. 16 with tipoff set for 7 p.m.