Michigan State ousts Lady Lions

The Associated Press

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Jasmine Thomas remained calm when Michigan State charged into the lead. She had that same relaxed expression when Penn State rallied, and she remained composed as she dribbled out the final seconds of an impressive victory.

Thanks to Thomas’ steady presence and a stout defense, the Spartans upset the eighth-ranked Lady Lions 54-46 in the Big Ten tournament semifinals Saturday.

“It’s a 40-minute game and Penn State is the type of team that can get going instantly,” said Thomas, who scored 14 of her 19 points in the second half. “There’s no time to celebrate, you’ve got to stay in the game, stay in the moment.”

Becca Mills added 16 points for Michigan State (24-7), which held Penn State to 22 percent shooting. Jasmine Hines had 14 rebounds, helping the Spartans to a 52-38 edge on the glass.

Michigan State allowed just 51.4 points per game during the regular season, tops in the Big Ten. It was the lowest scoring total and shooting percentage this year for Penn State, which posted two convincing victories over the Spartans on its way to the conference title.

“We rely on our defense,” Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said, “so to see our defense come to fruition tonight, I’m very, very proud of them and feel good about the win.”

Michigan State will meet third-seeded Purdue in the title game today. The Spartans split their two regular-season games against the Boilermakers, losing 67-62 in overtime on Jan. 27 and winning, 68-61, at Purdue on Feb. 28.

The Boilermakers advanced with a 77-64 victory over No. 21 Nebraska in the first semifinal.

Penn State (25-5) won the regular-season championship and lost in the tournament semifinals for the second straight year. The Lady Lions fell 68-66 against eventual champion Purdue in 2012.

Maggie Lucas, the conference player of the year, had 23 points and nine rebounds, but she was the only one to score in double figures for the Lady Lions.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all,” coach Coquese Washington said. “They shot the ball much better than we did. We had too many stretches where we got pretty decent looks that didn’t go down.”

Penn State led 21-17 early in the second half before the Spartans responded with a 15-3 run. Mills made a 3-pointer before Courtney Schiffauer converted a layup to give Michigan State its first lead of the game. Mills tacked on two more jumpers and Thomas’ basket made it 32-24 with 10:54 remaining.

MICHIGAN ST. (24-7): Schiffauer 1-1 0-0 2, Mills 7-13 0-0 16, Johnson 1-7 1-2 4, Thomas 8-18 2-3 19, Bell 0-3 3-6 3, Pickrel 2-4 0-0 4, Hines 1-6 4-4 6. Totals 20-52 10-15 54.

PENN ST. (25-5): Nickson 1-10 2-4 4, Greene 2-8 0-0 4, Taylor 1-6 0-0 2, Bentley 3-15 0-0 8, Lucas 7-22 2-2 23, Agee 0-0 1-2 1, Edwards 0-3 2-2 2, Studevent 0-2 0-0 0, Waldner 1-1 0-0 2, East 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-67 7-10 46.

Halftime-Penn St. 19-17. 3-Point Goals-Michigan St. 4-17 (Mills 2-5, Thomas 1-4, Johnson 1-5, Bell 0-1, Pickrel 0-2), Penn St. 9-23 (Lucas 7-13, Bentley 2-6, Studevent 0-1, Taylor 0-3). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Michigan St. 52 (Hines 14), Penn St. 38 (Lucas 9). Assists-Michigan St. 14 (Schiffauer, Thomas 3), Penn St. 8 (Bentley 3). Total Fouls-Michigan St. 15, Penn St. 19.