Four Michigan State players scored in double-figures, including a team-high 20 points from freshman Kalisha Keane, as the Michigan State women’s basketball team defeated Bowling Green, 74-66, Saturday afternoon at the Breslin Center in the second round of the WNIT. With the win, MSU improves to 20-13 on the year, giving the Spartans their fifth straight 20-win season. Michigan State advances to the third round of the WNIT to host either Evansville or Kansas on Thursday, March 27 at 7 p.m. in the Breslin Center. Evansville plays at Kansas Monday night. The Spartans received a first-round bye in the 48-team tournament.
"We wanted to be focused, we wanted to be ready from the guards down to the post," said MSU head coach Suzy Merchant, who became just the second coach in MSU basketball history - men’s side included - to record 20 wins in her first season. "We knew we were going to be in a fight with Bowling Green, they’re a great team. I think that our kids figured out how to fight a little bit and we had the same energy and enthusiasm and toughness that we had late in the season."
In addition to Keane, Mandy Piechowski, Allyssa DeHaan and Lauren Aitch each scored 12 points. Piechowski hit the first shot of the game, a 3-pointer, and tied a career high with four 3’s in the game. Michigan State shot a season-high 60 percent from 3-point range (6-for-10) and 45 percent from the field.
Brittney Thomas had a solid game at the point, dishing out a career-high eight assists and collecting eight rebounds.
The Spartans dominated inside, winning the battle of the boards, 47-32, and outscoring the Falcons 40-10 in the paint. MSU limited BGSU to 32 percent shooting from the field.
Lauren Prochaska, the MAC Freshman of the Year, scored a career-high 24 points with five 3’s to lead the Falcons, who finish the season with a 26-8 record.
Bowling Green led Michigan State 24-18 at the 8:37 mark in the first half, but the Spartans went on a 17-0 run over the next six minutes to take a 35-24 advantage, a lead they would never relinquish. MSU went into halftime with a 37-31 lead.
MSU opened up the second half on an 18-6 run in the first five minutes, prompting two timeouts from Bowling Green. Keane scored nine of her 20 points during that span, including two layups, two free throws and a 3-pointer.
The Spartans took their largest lead of the game at 59-39 with 13:38 remaining, but Bowling Green bounced back in the latter part of the second half, cutting the margin all the way to four points at 65-61 with just 2:20 to go. Keane hit a layup and Courtney Davidson made two free throws to push the lead back to eight, but Prochaska nailed her fifth and final 3-pointer with 1:35 left to cut it back down to five at 69-64.
On their next possession, the Spartans worked the clock down, and Keane misfired on a layup - but she got the rebound, and DeHaan hit a jumper in the lane 20 seconds later to give the Spartans a seven-point lead at 71-64 with only 48 seconds remaining. MSU hit three more free throws down the stretch to seal the 74-66 victory.