Jankoska’s triple-double powers Spartans past Golden Gophers

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — In what was a must-win game, Michigan State was powered by senior guard Tori Jankoska’s first career triple-double to knock off the Minnesota Golden Gophers 85-69 on Thursday night at the Breslin Center.

“It was big,” said Jankoska, who tallied 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for only the third triple-double in school history. “Going forward we gotta keep putting our foot on the gas.”

MSU was down 35-27 with two minutes remaining in the first half, forcing coach Suzy Merchant to call a timeout. After the timeout the Spartans were a brand new team, going on a 10-0 run to end the first half and opening the second half on an 11-2 run to gain a 48-37 lead with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter. Branndais Agee and Jankoska knocked down a combined five 3-pointers during the game-changing 21-2 run.

“We just talked about effort,” Merchant said when asked about the timeout. “Sometimes in this business if you have to coach effort, that’s usually not a good sign. You need to coach adjustments and whatever they’re doing.”

The Spartans (17-9 overall, 7-6 B1G) shot lights out on Thursday night, knocking down 52.4 percent of their shots from the field and 43.3 percent from beyond the arc. MSU also knocked down 13 3-pointers and assisted on 28 of its 33 made field goals.

Agee was unguardable on Thursday night, scoring a career-high 30 points and grabbing seven rebounds. She was 11-of-16 from the field, 6-of-9 from beyond the arc and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line.

“I knew I was hitting shots, but I didn’t know it was going to be 30 points. I was just out there having fun and my team was passing me the ball and they knew I was hot,” Agee said.

Not only was the Spartan offense on fire, but the defense was just as great, holding the Golden Gophers to 34 percent shooting from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. Minnesota’s two leading scorers, Kenisha Bell and Carlie Wagner, were held to a combined 21 points after coming into the game averaging 36.4 points per game. Bell and Wagner were 7-of-27 from the field.

Minnesota (14-13 overall, 5-9 B1G) wasn’t efficient from the field but was effective getting to the free-throw line. The Gophers shot 32 on the night, knocking down 24 of them. The Spartans, on the other hand, were only able to attempt 11 free-throws, knocking down six.

“I think they really wanted to protect the paint a little bit and sort of force the action, so that was probably a good move on their part to play a little more zone than man,” Merchant said. “We still have to do a better job of cleaning up some of our foul calls. Whether it be offensive rebound putbacks or dribble drives to just a little bit more on our rotations.”

The Spartans will look to continue their hot shooting when they travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan on Sunday at 2 p.m.

“Every time I get so fired up to play Michigan. I’m from Michigan, I’m a Michigan kid, I hate Michigan,” Jankoska said. “Rivalries are different. You throw everything out the window. The past records, everything and it’s really who plays with more toughness, an edge and more energy. That’s usually who wins rivalry games.”