The Spartans start 3-0 in the Big Ten for the third time in the last four years.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Two baskets from junior Becca Mills and perfect free throw shooting down the stretch, pushed the Michigan State women’s basketball team past Michigan, 79-72 on Sunday afternoon at Crisler Center. The Spartans (11-5, 3-0), who sit alone atop the Big Ten standings, have won 22 of their last 24 games against the Wolverines (11-5, 2-1). It was the lone meeting of the season between the two schools.
With the game tied at 65 with under three minutes left, Mills scored on back-to-back Spartan possessions to give MSU a lead it would not relinquish. The Wolverines kept clawing back, but Michigan State went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the final minute to ice the game.
Michigan State used a 11-2 run midway through the first half to open up a nine-point lead, and would hold onto a comfortable advantage throughout the half. However, Michigan closed on an 8-0 run over the final 2:50 to go into the break tied at 28.
The Spartan offense exploded in the second half, scoring 51 points, while shooting 58.1% from the field. The half was full of momentum shifts, as there were five ties and five lead changes. Michigan opened its largest lead at five early in the half, but MSU responded with a 10-2 run to retake the lead. From there, the teams seemed to match baskets leading up to Mills’ heroics.
Senior Annalise Pickrel led MSU in scoring for the second-straight game, pouring in 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Pickrel also had a career-high eight assists, with only one turnover, six rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes.
Junior Kiana Johnson added 14 points (12 of which were in the second half), four assists and two steals, while redshirt freshman Aerial Powers had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds, and junior Becca Mills scored 12.
The Spartans remain on the road this week, traveling to Iowa on Thursday at 8 p.m.
– The Spartans begin Big Ten play at 3-0 for the seventh time in program history (1987-88, 1989-90, 1990-91, 2006-07, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14), including three of the last four seasons.
– Michigan State has now won 22 of its last 24 meetings against Michigan. The Spartans are now 63-16 all-time in the series.
– Suzy Merchant is now 14-2 all-time against Michigan as Spartan head coach.
– The Spartans have won nine of their last 11 trips to Crisler Center and are now 25-10 all-time in Ann Arbor.
– Against in-state schools, MSU has won 40 of its last 42 games.
– Michigan State scored 51 second-half points, surpassing the 47.2 points per game that Michigan was allowing in its previous three games.
– MSU’s 79 points tied for the second most allowed by Michigan this season.
– The 79 points were also the most scored by MSU in the series since Dec. 31, 2009 (86).
– The Spartans had at least 20 assists for the third time in the last four games.
– Michigan State is now 11-0 this season when shooting more free throws than its opponent.
– MSU has won 91 of its last 92 games when leading with five minutes left, including 42 games in a row.
– The Spartans are now 33-20 under Coach Merchant in Big Ten road games.
– Michigan State had a season-low nine turnovers.
– The Spartans shot 18-for-20 from the free throw line, marking the highest percentage (90.0%) in a game this season.
– Becca Mills had 12 points in only 19 minutes, scoring in double-figures for the third-straight game for the first time this season.
– Jasmine Hines had a season-high nine points in 18 minutes off the bench.
– With two blocks, Pickrel moved up into ninth place on the MSU career blocks list with 62.
– MSU has won six games in a row on Jan. 12, having not lost since 1996.