EAST LANSING– Breslin Center’s court was on fire early in the game Wednesday night.
The No. 23 Spartans beat the Lady Bulldogs of Georgia 66-45 to advance to 2-0. This win was the Spartans first against Georgia since 2002, after losing last year in Athens.
“I wasn’t here last season, but when they [MSU] did play them [Georgia], Coach Merchant used some words I’m not going to use,” forward Akyah Taylor joked.
Michigan State was able to revenge their 2014 loss in convincing fashion.
MSU got hot quickly and increased their lead to 27-7 by the end of the first quarter. The quarter was highlighted by back-to-back three-pointers for both junior Tori Jankoska and sophomore Morgan Green.
Not only was the offense rolling, but the defense was as well, holding Georgia to shoot under 20 percent from the field.
The second quarter was a complete switch for MSU, as they gave up 16 points while only scoring six of their own. Georgia started to attack the paint while grad student Jasmine Hines was out with foul trouble, and the Spartans could not match it.
Leading the attack down low for Georgia was senior Merritt Hempe, who had four points in the quarter. Not helping matters was the fact that the Spartans had nine turnovers, which disallowed the offense from getting set.
“I thought we got a little jump-shot happy,” Merchant said. “Early on, we were really aggressive and pushed the tempo. I felt like we were just settling for quick shots, early jump shots and outside shots with not the best rebounding coverage.”
The Spartans could not stay out of foul trouble in the first half, with six players committing two fouls. This led to a lack of depth on the court, which Georgia capitalized on.
Coach Merchant’s halftime speech must have gotten to the team, as MSU outscored the Bulldogs 18-10 in the third quarter. At one point they went on a 12-4 run, which was led by Jankoska, who finished with 20 points.
The surprising double-double of the night came from Green. It is so shocking because it came in the way of points and rebounds. In fact, she flirted with a triple-double, being only three assists away.
Coach Merchant felt this is something natural for Green.
“That’s the way she is,” Merchant said. “She’s a really good defensive rebounding guard for as small as she is. She has a great nose for the ball.”
The turning point for Green was a stretch where she hit three three-pointers to get not only her team, but the Breslin crowd, standing up. She commented on this run.
“Honestly I feel like I was in a very good flow at that time because I can’t tell you what I was seeing,” Green said. “We were able to get the ball up the floor quickly. We got into our offense quickly and were able to get scores right away.”
Once again MSU had multiple players in double-figures in scoring; this time it was the combination of Jankoska, Green, and redshirt sophomore Branndais Agee.
The Lady Bulldogs were led in scoring by Preseason All-SEC Second Team senior Shacobia Barbee, who had 13 points and five rebounds. Barbee had a triple-double in the Lady Bulldogs’ last game.
A milestone that could be accomplished next game is the reaching of 1,000 career points for Jankoska, the game’s leading scorer. Achieving this will make Jankoska the 25th Spartan to do so. Currently she is only nine points away.
The Spartans continue their three-game homestand Saturday at noon against Idaho State.
Three Spartans finished in double figures for scoring: Tori Jankoska (20), Branndais Agee (14), Morgan Green (11).
Two Spartans had double-digit rebounds: Jasmine Hines (10) and Morgan Green (10).
MSU out-rebounded Georgia 51-30.
MSU’s defense forced Georgia to shoot 25.9 percent from the field and 8.3 percent from three-point range.
Zachary Swiecicki contributed to this story