Wolverines Finally Beat MSU

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Janelle Cooper was running out of time.
The Michigan senior knew that if her Wolverines didn't beat Michigan State this year, she'd have to leave school having never beaten the program's biggest rival.
She doesn't have to worry anymore.
Cooper had 12 points and eight rebounds to help Michigan beat Michigan State 64-55 on Sunday, ending the Wolverines' nine-game losing streak to the Spartans.
"Ever since I've been here, this has been what I wanted," she said. "We talked about it as freshmen and as sophomores and as juniors, and this year, we knew it was our last chance."
Carly Benson led Michigan (10-5, 3-2 Big Ten) with 23 points, but center Krista Phillips' play might have made the difference.
Phillips hit just one of eight shots and ended up with four rebounds against six turnovers, but she also held Michigan State (10-8, 2-4) star Allyssa DeHaan to nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
"K.P. did a great defensive job on DeHaan," Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. "She's an outstanding player -- big, but with some finesse -- and Krista handled it."
At 6-foot-6, the Canadian wasn't used to going against a taller opponent, but she was able to overcome DeHaan's three-inch height advantage with her strength.
"I played against some big girls in Canada, but I didn't have any experience at all with anyone taller than me," Phillips said. "I knew I had more muscle than her, so I wanted to get her out of the paint so she wasn't blocking everything."
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said her high-profile sophomore needs to learn an important lesson from what Phillips did to her.
"Michigan did exactly what teams have been doing to Allyssa -- it's what Minnesota did and what Ohio State did," she said. "She needs to find a way to score in those situations, and to be honest, she's got to get tougher."
The Spartans were 6-1 at the end of November, but have gone 4-7 since, which Merchant thinks is mostly due to depth. Junior Mia Johnson, recovering from a knee injury, played only two minutes against the Wolverines, while junior forward Aisha Jefferson has missed the entire season with a torn ACL.
"It's tough, because we're now starting three freshmen and a sophomore, and that includes our point guard," Merchant said. "We had Kalisha (Keane) in foul trouble today, and there's not a whole lot left to replace her."
For Michigan, depth isn't really an issue. Borseth has made a career out of playing his starters a lot of minutes, and he hasn't changed in the Big Ten. The Wolverines didn't get a single point off the bench against Michigan State, and Melina Queen was the only reserve to play more than six minutes.
"I've been doing this for 25 years -- five players," he said. "I'm just not really comfortable with substitutions -- I want my top players on the floor to make plays."
Borseth now is 1-0 in the rivalry, but he understands what the victory might mean for his players.
"This is just one game, not the entire season, but maybe it shows us the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "This is something we can build on."
Krista Clement added 13 points for Michigan, while Jessica Minnfield and Cooper scored 12 each.
Courtney Davidson scored 13 for Michigan State, but no other Spartan reached double figures.
The Spartans took a 31-29 lead two minutes into the second half, and DeHaan followed with a three-point play to put Michigan State up by five.
Michigan, though, rallied behind defense and outside shooting. After forcing numerous turnovers, the Wolverines got back-to-back 3-pointers by Benson and Minnfield to help them take a 49-45 lead with five minutes left.
Michigan increased the margin to 10 before the Spartans could score again.
Benson's third 3-pointer made it 58-47 in the last three minutes, sealing the win.
Michigan got off to a quick start, with Benson scoring seven points and the Wolverines took a 13-4 lead. They led by as many as 10, but Michigan State pulled within 29-26 at halftime.


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