EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State (18-9, 8-8) decided to keep Senior Day set for Feb. 24 despite the delayed Penn State game being scheduled for Feb. 27. It might not have been the final home game of the year, but when Senior Day is combined with playing Michigan (19-10, 10-7), a mix of emotions is to be expected. Senior Jenna Allen played in what could be her final game against the Maize and Blue and she did it in spectacular fashion, leading the Spartans to a 74-64 win.
Michigan State entered the game sitting at 10th in the Big Ten with a conference record of 7-8, while the Wolverines sat in fourth place, eyeing a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament. Despite the Wolverines being on a seven-game tear since the last time the two teams faced off, Ohio State was one game behind the Wolverines with four other teams being two games behind. This contest was the start of a final three-game stretch that will determine when and what team Michigan State will be playing in Indianapolis next week.
In a game important for both teams’ Big Ten hopes, Allen was hot, accounting for almost half of Michigan State’s points in the first quarter. She put up 10 of Michigan State’s 22 points in the first and finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and surprisingly five steals. It’s fitting that the veteran center and only senior on the team would be the big name on her senior day.
“When you’re the only senior, that’s a whole other animal,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said. “Jenna’s done it as good as anybody who’s never really had that role prior to their senior year.”
After losing three straight, Merchant wasn’t easy on her team. After voicing her frustrations in the postgame press conference after the Ohio State game, Merchant was pretty hard on her team and made it clear this wouldn’t happen again going forward. Allen talked about how they had one of the best practices of the season after the Ohio State game.
“We want to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament so I think the way she got on us really brought the energy out of us today,” Allen said. “And we were playing Michigan so she didn’t really have to motivate us at all today.”
Turnovers made a big impact early, as Michigan already had 13 turnovers after the first half, roughly just three under its season average of 15.7 per game while Michigan State committed eight turnovers, five shy of eclipsing its season average of 13 per game. The Spartans ultimately scored 22 points off of Michigan’s 25 turnovers, and despite the loss, the Wolverines had an impressive 24 points off of 13 turnovers.
Michigan struggled in the foul department, fouling the Spartans 15 times and allowing Michigan State to go 23-of-27 from the line.
Freshman Tory Ozment, who was out with a stress injury, returned to play in this game and scored three points.
The Wolverines had a number of players in foul trouble, a pair of the them being two of their top four leading scorers in Hallie Thome and Deja Church, both of whom fouled out of the game. Five other Wolverines had three or more fouls. Kim Barnes Arico was forced to switch up her lineup to account for all of her players in foul trouble.
After snapping their losing streak, the Spartans will look to carry this momentum into their matchup with Penn State on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. for their final home game of the season. Michigan State will try and cap off its home record with just one loss on the year.