Spartans Rally Past Arch-Rival Michigan

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Allyssa DeHaan and her Michigan State teammates hadn't been swept by Michigan in eight years and weren't going to let that happen on Thursday.
With 15 points, including six in a 15-6 closing surge, DeHaan did just enough to give the Spartans a 61-58 win and prevent a perceived shift in power.
"I was devastated by the first loss," DeHaan said of a 64-55 road setback on Jan. 13. "We were all devastated. We hadn't lost to them in the last few years, so you take that personally."
The 6-foot-9 DeHaan had consecutive baskets to tie the game at 53, blocked a shot, then snapped a tie at 55 with two free throws for Michigan State (13-10, 5-6 Big Ten), which finally played with the passion most people expected.
"A lot of people make a big deal about the rivalry," first-year Spartans coach Suzy Merchant said. "And it is a big deal. I'm sure there will be some great battles ahead."
The Wolverines (12-8, 5-5) were in position to win for just the 16th time in 66 series matchups but lost their poise and squandered a 53-45 lead.
"If you ask, 'What happened?' I'm going to get up and walk out of here," Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. "We had an eight-point lead, in case you forgot. We came unglued offensively and outthought ourselves. I screwed it up for them."
Stephany Skrba had 16 points and Carly Benson 13 for the Wolverines, who dominated inside with 46 points, the opposite strategy they used in hitting 12 3-pointers in Ann Arbor.
Both coaches showed how much the game meant to their programs. Merchant put more emotion in her pregame speech than her players could remember, and Borseth broke a clipboard by slamming it down in the final five minutes, much to the crowd's delight.
"It's no big deal," Borseth said. "I go through a couple of those a year. But we've done this in three of our last four games -- let it get away."
Mandy Piechowski had 12 points and Brittney Thomas 10 for Michigan State, which continued a lose-win pattern for the eighth straight game.
"This one was big," Piechowski said. "We hadn't lost to them since '02, and that first game hurt everyone in the program."
"Definitely, you could feel the pressure," Thomas said after grabbing seven rebounds from the point guard spot to match DeHaan's total. "It was hard for the young players to realize that the first time if you're not from here and don't breathe it and smell it every day. This time, we said, 'We're not going to lose this game."'
The Spartans began their comeback with two free throws by Piechowski. Cetera Washington's putback gave Michigan State a 55-53 lead, but Krista Clement went end to end to tie the game.
DeHaan put the Spartans ahead to stay with 59 seconds left, and Thomas made it 59-55 with two more free throws.
After a 3-pointer from Benson made it 59-58, Kalisha Keane hit two foul shots with 7.6 seconds left. Michigan's last try to tie, an open 3-pointer from the right corner by Janelle Cooper, bounced harmlessly off the rim.
"I thought Allyssa elevated her game," Merchant said. "I get a little frustrated with the contact she gets. But I thought she did a great job making free throws down the stretch and grabbing rebounds. She was much more aggressive."
Borseth compared DeHaan to Wilt Chamberlain in her ability to tower over players and take charge of a game. He also compared his sideline demeanor to another coach from the Upper Peninsula who wears his heart on his sleeve, Michigan State's Tom Izzo.
But with three more wins than Cheryl Burnett had as Michigan's coach last season, Borseth said the scores and the standings show that the Spartans don't tower over his program this year.


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