Sparty was feeling it from long range Thursday night, and by the time the Indiana Hoosiers began to slow the barrage down, it was too late to mount a comeback.
No. 12 Michigan State hit 10 of 16 three-point attempts and cruised to a comfortable 69-55 win at Assembly Hall. The Spartans (17-2, 5-1) effortlessly imposed their offensive will for most of the game, finding open look after open look from beyond the arc. The Hoosiers (8-11, 2-5) did their best to rally, led by Jori Davisâ€™ 20 hard-fought points, but just couldnâ€™t get over the hump. According to Coach Felisha Legette-Jack, there wasnâ€™t a whole lot that IU could do to slow down MSUâ€™s long-range attack.
â€œOn defense it was almost like we had to choose one shooter or the other,” Legette-Jack said. ” And the other shooter would hit the shot.â€
The Spartans were also extraordinarily active at the other end of the court, doing a great job of crashing the boards and locking down defensively in the half-court. Michigan State used its superior athleticism and size inside to earn second chances on offense, and was able to make the defense pay often as a result.
â€œRebounding is all about desire and hustle,” Legette-Jack said. “We just tried to out jump them in the first half, but they were too athletic and we didnâ€™t box them out.â€
That was the story of the first half, as the Spartans took advantage of their extended possessions and began pulling away. The two catalysts were Lykendra Johnson, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Kalisha Keane, who was the driving force behind MSUâ€™s first-half offense, as she totaled 17 points on six of eleven shooting, including four of five three point attempts.
â€œI felt like I really needed to step in the first half,â€ Keane said, â€œThey located me in the second half and then I could just find our open shooters.â€
As Keane implied, the second half was really where the Spartans put the game away, with Taylor Alton connecting on three of four open three-pointers and opening up a 55-33 lead with ten minutes to play. From there, the Hoosiers switched to a full-court press and, led by Whitney Lindseyâ€™s ten second half points, clawed their way to as close as 12. At the end of the day though, it was just too little too late.
â€œWe should have gone to the press earlier,â€ said Coach Legette-Jack, â€œit really helped us play with them, but by the time we got to it we just couldnâ€™t do a whole lot.â€
If there was one bright spot, it was Jori Davis emerging from a three-game slump, in which she had averaged only 12 points per game.
â€œIt all starts with her,â€ Michigan Stateâ€™s Suzy Merchant said. â€œShe makes everyone around her better and she has a legitimate pull-up that you canâ€™t do much against. We just wanted to make her work hard, because sheâ€™ll hurt you.â€
After yet another Big Ten disappointment, the Hoosiers will have to hope that Davis can continue to up her game because theyâ€™ll assuredly need it if they expect to be competitive for the remainder of the season.