Michigan State Rallies Past Iowa , 73-65

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EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State women’s basketball team overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat Iowa , 73-65, Thursday night at the Breslin Center . Michigan State , which was down 35-22 at the break, outscored Iowa 51-30 in the second half. Brittney Thomas scored a career-high 18 points and had six steals for the Spartans (10-7, 2-3 Big Ten). Iowa falls to 9-7 (2-3).

Down 52-39 with 12:00 remaining, MSU went on a 20-4 run over the next seven minutes to take a 59-56 lead. Thomas’ fast-break layup at the 5:53 mark gave MSU its first lead, 57-56, since the first half. MSU outscored Iowa 31-13 in the last 12 minutes of the game.

Senior guard Courtney Davidson tied a career high with 18 points and hit three 3-pointers, while reserve guard Takeya Fortner played a career-high 16 minutes and scored a career-high five points. Kalisha Keane and Lauren Aitch also scored in double figures for MSU with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Michigan State turned up the pressure in the second half, causing 17 Hawkeye turnovers and nine steals. For the game, MSU forced 25 turnovers, a season high for a Spartan opponent, and tied a season high with 12 steals. Thomas scored 16 of her 18 points in the final 20 minutes and Davidson scored 13 of her 18 in the second half.

“The crowd did a great job getting behind the players and keeping the emotion up for us,” said MSU head coach Suzy Merchant. “You can’t achieve greatness if you don’t get into it and invest a whole lot. The only way to invest a whole lot is give everything, not just your physical ability, but your mental ability and that includes your emotion. When we did that and things started to go our way, it seemed like a fire that got out of control, and everyone started showing emotion and picking it up a level.

“One of our offenses is where we set a lot of ball screens,” continued Merchant. “The only way we can be successful at that is if we have guards that can put it on the deck and get to the rim and create. What I had to do was give Takeya, Courtney and Brittany a chance. We haven’t been playing that combination this year, and we felt like everyone else had got an opportunity and it was Takeya’s turn to get a shot. She is extremely quick defensively and we tried to keep things in a flow with the screening game. She got into a groove and gave us a big spark.”

For the first 10 minutes, the two teams traded leads, but Iowa went on an 11-0 run to take a 24-13 lead with 6:12 remaining. The Spartans bounced back with a 6-0 run, keyed by two Aitch baskets and a layup by Thomas, cutting the margin to 24-19. Iowa responded again, however, with another 11-0 run to take a 35-19 lead. The Hawkeyes took a 35-22 advantage into the break after an Aitch free throw and Keane layup closed the half for MSU.

The Hawkeyes shot 58 percent in the first half, led by Smith, who went 5-for-5 from the field with three 3’s, good for 13 points. Smith finished the night with a game-high 23 points. Johanna Solverson added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the Hawkeyes.

Michigan State returns to action Sunday, Jan. 13 to face Michigan in Ann Arbor at noon. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network.

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