Jet Lag: MSU Struggles in first game back from Bahamas

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24 hours after the Michigan State men’s basketball team played the Louisville Cardinals, the Breslin Center was home to the same matchup between the women’s teams.

It was a rough game all around for the No. 19 Spartans in their first home game since playing in the Junkanoo Jam as they lost to the Louisville Cardinals 85-78. This loss puts the Spartans at 4-2 on the year, while the previously underachieving Cardinals are now 2-4.

Turnovers killed MSU in the first half, they had 12.The Spartans struggled on defense, allowing the Cardinals to shoot 67 percent from three-point land and 61 percent overall.

“We were beating ourselves,” Merchant said. “In the first half, we didn’t attack them. We were really soft…we took nothing but jump shots and they got 50/50 balls.”

They eventually switched to a zone defense, which let MSU garner some turnovers and fast break points. However, Louisville eventually found their stride again, continued their scoring, and went into the first half leading 45-32.

The MSU versus Louisville matchup was part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge:

After coming off an impressive Junkanoo Jam performance, junior guard Tori Jankoska struggled with no points in the first half for the first time this season. She also committed three turnovers.

Jankoska spoke about her performance tonight.

“It was rough. I could not really get anything going at all. Offensively I could not handle the ball,” Jankoska said. “I had a pretty rough game. I kind of went down in the energy area just because I was trying to keep my cool and keep focused.”

A bright spot for the Spartans in the first half was winning the rebounding battle 16-12, led by redshirt junior Aerial Powers with five.

The second half started out much of the same as Louisville continued to run over the MSU defense by packing it into the paint. In turn, MSU struggled on offense with more turnovers and poor shooting.

Coach Suzy Merchant gave her view of the offense after the game.

“Turnovers. It does not help when you have 27 turnovers,” Merchant said. “Tori did not play well, Jas [Jasmine Hines] did not play well.”

The Cardinals played a complete game as they led MSU in turnovers, fast break points, and points in the paint. They also had five players finish in double figures, including 24 points off the bench.

Jankoska scored her first points of the game at the 1:45 mark in the third quarter on a layup, cutting the Louisville lead to nine, 51-60.

With 1:15 left to play in the third quarter, the Spartans had already committed 21 turnovers. Each turnover seemed to come at the worst time for MSU, either ending a scoring streak or ruining chance of one.

Going into the fourth quarter the Spartans started to make a run, bucket by bucket. By the time Louisville could call timeout, the Cardinals lead had been cut down to one.

Limiting the turnovers and attacking the Louisville defense in the paint allowed MSU to slowly creep back into the game. As they continued their run, the Breslin became electric as the crowd rallied behind the Spartans.

As soon as coach Merchant turned around after the timeout, Louisville had already managed to improve their lead to six, 61-67. The Spartans did not show any signs of quitting, continuing the back-and-forth battle. However, turnovers once again were the killer for MSU as they could not take the lead.

When they needed her most late in the fourth quarter, Powers could not convert on two critical free throws. She had a chance to redeem herself less than a minute later, sinking them both.

Back-to-back three’s from MSU by Agee and Jankoska gave the Spartans some life as they continued to attempt to make a run. Once again, a turnover ended the possession and Louisville got the ball back and effectively slowed the game down by attacking the basket with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock and scoring.

“I don’t like close,” Merchant said. “I did like our fight, but we just didn’t capitalize. I give Louisville a lot of credit the way they came out of the gates…we struggled to match their intensity.”

What could end up being the worst part of the night, besides the loss, is the injury to Aerial Powers. Late in the fourth she came down awkwardly on her left foot and appeared to have potentially injured it. She was helped off the court and put no weight on her left leg. She just came back from tendinitis in her right Achilles over the summer and it could be anything from a cramp to a tear in the Achilles area of her left foot/ankle.

The Spartans play next at home this Sunday against Loyola Chicago at 2 PM. Loyola is 4-4 on the season.

Notable Stats:
27 turnovers and 27 made field goals for MSU, compared to 18 and 29 for Louisville

MSU assisted on 18 of the 27 made field goals

MSU’s bench scored 10 points versus Louisville’s 24 points