Jenna Allen, Spartans stun No. 3 Oregon 88-82


Joe Dandron, Women's Basketball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State women’s basketball team hadn’t defeated an AP top-five team since 2005. That changed on Sunday, as MSU battled back from an early deficit to pull off the home upset over previously-undefeated No. 3 Oregon 88-82.

MSU’s Jenna Allen played like the team’s lone senior in a huge upset victory over the No. 3 Ducks. Allen scored 27 points and hit a go-ahead 3-point shot with 34 seconds to play in the game.

“Obviously this is a huge win for us,” said coach Suzy Merchant. “I felt like our schedule had prepared us to play these guys. We scrimmaged Notre Dame, we played N.C. State. So we had played that level of competition in the non-conference coming into this non-conference game.”

The Spartans got punched in the mouth early, facing a deficit 12 points in the first quarter and decided to hit back. Allen sunk an 3-point shot while being fouled to give MSU the lead with 2:44 to go in the second quarter, but she wasn’t done.

Allen followed the play up with another catch-and-shoot jumper to expand the lead to four. The  lone senior nearly carried the team in the first half as she scored 16 of her 27 points in the first two quarters.

“I thought coach [Merchant] had a great game plan,” said Allen. “I can shoot it so she wanted me on the perimeter to drag Ruthy out a little bit and let Coco [Gaines] go to work inside. I felt like the game plan was great and I worked on my three point shot all summer. But also, seniors step up.”

Oregon was led by All-American guard Sabrina Ionescu, who came into the game as the only player in the nation to average 18 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds per game.

The Ducks star scored 29 in the ball game.

“She’s just a competitor, she’s a scary, scary player. She can put a whole team on her back,” said Merchant. “I said to our players, when No. 20 has the ball, every hair on the back of your neck should stand up.”

The fans showed out for the game as well and with the stands nearly full at the Breslin Center, MSU took it to Oregon after getting down by double-digits early in the game. A strong third quarter led to a nine-point lead for MSU into the fourth quarter.

MSU expanded the lead to as large as 11 early in the fourth quarter and with just over five minutes to play in the game, the Spartans clung to a two point lead against an undefeated Oregon squad following a quick 13-4 run by the Ducks.

“We knew that if we wanted to beat the No. 3 team, the mistakes we made against N.C. State we couldn’t make in this game,” said junior Mardrekia Cook. “We started off slow, but we have a young team.”

The Spartans nearly lost the lead after Oregon tied it up at 75 late, but two three pointers, one from Allen, one from Taryn McCutcheon in what were the two biggest shots of the night.

McCutcheon and Allen led the Spartans in scoring but the bench came up huge. MSU’s bench outscored Oregon’s 20-6 in the game.

The Spartans are 8-1 this season following the upset bid, they match up with Hartford on the road next Sunday, Dec. 16. The Ducks will play South Dakota State this coming Wednesday, Dec.12 and are 7-1.