EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ Thursday night was a night to honor the three Spartan seniors, but it was a sophomore who sparked the Michigan State womenâ€™s basketball team to a 73-53 upset of No. 23 Nebraska. Klarissa Bell scored a game- and career-high 19 points, including MSUâ€™s first seven points, to help MSU open a 28-8 lead in the first nine minutes.
The Spartans, who have won six of their last seven games, improve to 18-10 overall and remain in a tie for third place at 10-5 in the Big Ten.
All three seniors were productive in their final Breslin Center game. Taylor Alton poured in 18 points, going 7-for-11 from the field, including 4-of-8 from behind the arc, while also adding five rebounds in two steals. Porsche Poole dished out a career high nine assists, while also adding 13 points. Lykendra Johnson had seven points, seven rebounds and two steals in only 19 minutes.
Nebraska got on the board first, but Bell scored the first seven MSU points, pushing the Spartans ahead 7-2 in the early minutes. The Huskers scored the next four points to pull within one, but the Spartans followed with a 19-2 run, including a stretch of 15 unanswered, to take the wind out of Nebraska and go ahead 28-8 with 11:18 on the clock. Michigan State maintained a comfortable margin, eventually going into halftime up 43-22.
The Spartans shot 62.1% in the first half, including a 7-of-12 effort from behind the arc.
Michigan State was sloppy early in the second half, but would grow its lead to as many as 23 on a couple occasions. A 15-2 Nebraska run cut the Spartan lead to 10 (52-42) with 11:46 left. MSU regrouped and posted a 15-3 run of their own over the next six minutes to put the game away.
With 1:55 left, head coach Suzy Merchant subbed out the three seniors together, allowing them to kiss the Spartan head at midcourt on their way off the court for the last time.
After the game, the Spartan womenâ€™s basketball program honored its senior class for their hard work and dedication over the last four year. In addition to Alton, Johnson and Poole, five members of the support staff â€“ office assistant Antonice Strickland , managers Alex Bates and Ashley Parry, scout team member Danny Johns, and graduate assistant Lindsay Scarlatelli â€“ were also recognized.
The Spartans conclude their regular season on Sunday, traveling to Northwestern for a 3 p.m. ET tip.
- It was the first meeting between Michigan State and Nebraska.
- MSU reaches 10 conference wins for the 10th straight season. The Spartans and Ohio State are the only two schools to have accomplished this feat.
- MSU improves to 4-4 this season against ranked opponents.
- The Spartans finished the season averaging 7,505 fans per game, setting a new single-season attendance record, which was set last season (7,388).
- MSU has won its last 32 games when scoring at least 70 points. The Spartans are 49-4 under Coach Merchant when reaching that number.
- The Spartans also improve to 87-8 under Coach Merchant when holding their opponent to 60 points or less.
- MSU tied its season high with 20 assists.
- MSU improves to 15-0 all-time when Taylor Alton scores in double-figures.
- It was the first time in her career that Bell has led MSU in scoring.
- Bell also set a career high with three steals and set a season high with three assists (and no turnovers).
- En route to her 18 points, Bell went 8-for-12 from the field, and tied her career high, going 3-for-4 from behind the arc.
- L. Johnson moved into 13th place on the Spartan career points list with 1,192.
- L. Johnson played her 127th career game, tying her for 11th most in MSU history, while Poole played her 117th game, tying for 17th place.