It started better than expected.
The No. 17 ranked Michigan State women’s basketball team defeated the Michigan Wolverines tonight in Breslin 85-64 in front of a roaring sellout crowd.
The start by MSU could not have been drawn up as redshirt sophomore Branndais Agee stole the tip and took it down for a score. A minute later she came off a screen and hit a three to put MSU up 7-2.
Coach Suzy Merchant spoke on her team’s start after the game.
“It was more of a focus of let’s make sure we aren’t worried what they are in,” Merchant said. “Getting off to a hot start wasn’t something we talked about, we just wanted to play with high energy and enthusiasm.”
Soon after Agee went on her run, it was junior Tori Jankoska’s turn as she hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. Her first three was at least 25 feet and drew comparisons to reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry
At this point, the Spartans were up 13-4 and looking confident. Each shot and defensive stop had Breslin rocking, and the team fed off of it.
Michigan went on a run in the first quarter led by sophomore Katelynn Flaherty to cut the lead to four. Flaherty used her quickness to get by what seemed like every Spartan defender on her way to the basket. If MSU stopped that, she would hit a three. Flaherty was the only reason the Wolverines came within reach as MSU seemingly shut down everyone else.
The second quarter started the same way the first did: an Agee score. This time she came around and hit a three to put MSU up 11. Two possessions later she came back to hit another three to respond to a U of M basket.
Merchant commented on Agee’s play in the postgame press conference.
“It was great seeing a player like Agee who may not have stepped up in the past show up today.” Merchant said.
Junior Aerial Powers kept pushing the pace for the Spartans as she totaled eight points in the second quarter. She played with ease as she used a series of moves to split the defense up and score. Her strong play, combined with MSU out-rebounding Michigan, led to a Spartan halftime lead of 48-28.
The Wolverines came out shooting in the third quarter as they hit two in a row from beyond the arc. However, this did not phase the Spartans as the big three of Agee, Jankoska, and Powers helped extend the lead to as much as 29. At one point in the quarter, Powers pump faked on a layup to score, then immediately came back to hit a three; exerting her dominance on the court once again.
Powers spoke on her mindset for this big game.
“The fact that it is a rivalry game just to come out extremely hard,” Powers said. “And as you can see that was the mindset of every girl on the team as we shot the lights out and played really good defense.”
The start of the fourth quarter showed some casual play by the Spartans as they allowed Michigan to slowly cut the lead to 18. However, Powers wanted none of it as she checked back into the game to hit two free throws and a three, effectively ending the game. She checked out ending her night with 27 points, and securing a Spartan win.
This win takes MSU to 17-4 and 8-2 in Big Ten play. Their next game is Friday as they travel to College Park, Maryland to take on the No. 5 ranked Terrapins. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on BTN Plus.
Agee, Jankoska, and Powers combined for 63 points