Spartans Control Broncos in Season Opener

Spartans+Control+Broncos+in+Season+Opener

As the saying goes, “There’s no place like home.”

This reigned true for the No. 24 ranked MSU women’s basketball team, as they defeated Western Michigan 78-40 to start the season 1-0. The Spartans are now 6-3 in season openers under head coach Suzy Merchant.

Michigan State kept Western scoreless until the 3:37 mark in the first quarter when senior guard Alex Morton hit two free throws, putting a dent in the 12-0 MSU lead. This dominating defense forced WMU to shoot 19 percent on field goals in the first half and a minuscule 16 percent by the final whistle.

“I thought we did a good job taking care of the basketball,” Merchant said. “And we held them, field goal percent-wise.”

In the first half, the Spartans were led by junior guard Tori Jankoska, who had 12 points and only sat one minute the entire half. Adding to the lead was graduate student Akyah Taylor, who had eight points along with seven rebounds in the half.

“Overall, it was pretty solid for our first game,” Jankoska said. “We took care of the ball, ran through our stuff, and played pretty good defense all around.”

The Spartans controlled the boards, as they had two players with five or more rebounds in the first half. After the first 20 minutes, MSU dominated the rebound battle 28-19 and the scoreline 33-17.

Coming out of the half, MSU  commanded both ends of the floor. MSU held Western to only nine points in the third quarter while scoring 29 of their own. Although Jankoska cooled off from her hot start in the first half, the offense continued to thrive.

The surprise on offense came from sophomore forward Kennedy Johnson. Johnson came off the bench to score six points in a matter of three minutes. Johnson’s offense was going so well that she even attempted a three, much to the excitement of her teammates on the bench.

The highlight of the night was Jankoska’s no-look pass on a fast break to Taylor for a layup to extend the MSU lead to 33 points.

“It took us a little bit to get acclimated with the new players,” Jankoska said. “We’re finding open people, hitting open shots, and playing really well together. We need to keep growing to keep improving.”

Coming into this game, graduate student Jasmine Hines had said she wanted to get the jitters out after not playing much of last year due to injury. If there were nerves for this game, it was not evident as Hines had her first career double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, as well as going a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line.

“We made a lot of progress as a team,” Hines said. “Everyone did their job on defense and shared the ball.”

The Spartans had four players in double figures. Jankoska led the way with 20 points in 31 minutes played.

Western was kept quiet, as no player reached double figures. The team only made nine of their 55 attempted shots thanks to the stifling Spartans defense.

Coach Merchant felt more could be done, however.

“We gave up 12 offensive rebounds, we fouled them 26 times and we gave up 20 points from the free throw line,” Merchant said. “We gotta get tougher and stop fouling.”

Missing again for the Spartans was preseason All-American honorable mention, junior Aerial Powers, as she is still nursing tendinitis in her Achilles.

Merchant touched on how Powers is recovering.

“It’s still day-to-day. We’d love to have on the court at any point…it’s just a work in progress. This will be the second week where she’s been able to practice and take contact,” Merchant said.

MSU will face the Georgia Bulldogs this Wednesday at 7:30 PM at the Breslin Center. Georgia is coming off of a 76-55 win over Stetson University in their season opener.

Notable Stats:

  • Two players finished with double-doubles:
    • Jasmine Hines: 10 pts, 10 reb
    • Akyah Taylor: 12 pts, 10 reb
  • MSU had assists on 19 of their 27 field goals
  • Both teams combined for 51 attempted free throws:
    • MSU 20-24
    • WMU 20-27
  • MSU held WMU to shoot 9-55 from the field and 2-18 from the three-point line.

Zane D’Souza contributed to this article