Tag, you’re it.
If Big Ten women’s basketball was a version of the popular children’s game, Michigan State would have put the responsibility of tagging on Michigan.
After Ohio State held the Spartans to under 30-percent shooting on Monday, No. 16 Michigan State (11-5 Big Ten, 21-8 overall) passed the favor on to Michigan (0-15, 6-21), who shot just 29.5 percent in last night’s 68-42 loss at Crisler Arena. The team lost its 25th consecutive conference loss.
But it was the number 14 that defined the first half.
The Spartans held a 14-point lead at the break, 28-14.
The Wolverines turned the ball over 14 times.
They grabbed 14 first-half rebounds, while the Spartans notched 14 offensive rebounds in the first half.
And Liz Shimek, Michigan State’s leading scorer in the first half, matched Michigan’s total with 14 points of her own in just 14 minutes of play.
“Their easy baskets early affected us,” Michigan coach Cheryl Burnett said.
Shimek scored 10 points in the game’s first six minutes to lead her team to an eight-point lead. She finished with a game-high 22 points.
Despite Shimek’s overall offensive production, Burnett called freshman Ashley Jones’ aggressive defense on the 6-foot-1 forward “physical” and singled her out as one of two players that came to compete.
At one point, the 6-foot-2 Jones, who normally plays guard but switched to forward because of injuries, told Burnett that she wanted to guard Shimek.
Burnett also commended sophomore Janelle Cooper for her performance last night and development this season.
Cooper set a new career high with 18 points, and Jones grabbed seven boards.
Aside from the lone Michigan bright spots, the Spartans came off a tough loss to the Buckeyes and dominated the game.
Michigan State coach Joanne P. McCallie called her team’s performance against Ohio State “pathetic,” but she noticed a return to some semblance of order last night.
“We got a heck of a lesson out of that thumping we took,” McCallie said.
Just like Michigan’s 77-44 loss at Michigan State on Jan. 1, it was the Spartans’ various defensive looks that presented problems for the Wolverines once again. Michigan State switched between a variety of zone defenses and presses that stalled Michigan the offense.
“We were turning the ball over in interesting places against their zone,” Burnett said. “We were dribbling the ball in places that we shouldn’t.”
At one point, the Spartans found success with a one-man press on the point guard. Michigan State forced three consecutive turnovers out of this formation.
Michigan couldn’t cut the deficit to less than 11, and the Spartans showed their depth by playing eight players for more than five minutes. Michigan State outscored the Wolverines by 12 points in the second half, even though its bench players played 10 more minutes than in the first half.
Following “tag” logic, the challenge is on the Wolverines to hold Illinois to a low-shooting clip.
This final chance for a conference victory will come Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Crisler Arena, in their last Big Ten game of the year.