CANCUN, Mexico - The No. 19/18 Michigan State women's basketball team jumped out to a 26-1 lead en route to a dominating 67-40 victory over Northern Illinois Wednesday afternoon in the Caribbean Challenge at the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico. Sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan led the Spartans (3-1) with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field, while freshman forward Kalisha Keane poured in 15 points. Senior guard Alisa Wulff scored a career-high 11 points with a career-best three 3-pointers. Â
"Any victory is a good victory," Merchant told the Associated Press after the game. "We need to keep working. Our kids played hard. We won the defensive battle on the boards, that was the key."
The Spartans shot 52 percent from the field (23-for-44), including a scorching 67 percent in the second half (12-for-18). From the foul line, the Spartans connected on 18-of-19 attempts. MSU out-rebounded the Huskies, 29-17.
DeHaan added three blocks, five rebounds, and was 3-for-3 from the line. Keane scored nine of her 15 points in the second half, mostly on wide-open layups. MSU used its size advantage by outscoring the Huskies 34-10 in the paint.
Freshman guard Brittney Thomas played a solid game at the point, registering season highs in points (eight), rebounds (seven) and steals (five) while playing a game-high 36 minutes.
Kylie York led the Huskies (2-2) with 14 points, including four 3-pointers.
The Spartans started the game on a 12-0 run before Northern Illinois made a free throw with 14:58 left in the half. MSU held the Huskies scoreless for the next 10 minutes, not allowing an NIU field goal until the 5:52 mark. By that time, the Spartans were up 26-1 and in complete control. The Huskies ended the half on a 15-5 run, making 31-16 at the break.
NIU trimmed the lead to 12 points at 35-23 with 16:54 left in the game, but it's as close as the Huskies would get. After a Northern Illinois jumped made it 42-27, the Spartan defense clamped down and held the Huskies without a point for more than six minutes. DeHaan hit three straight jumpers in the lane in the final three minutes as MSU extended its lead to 27 points.
Michigan State returns to action tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 22) to face Kansas State at 9 p.m. ET in the second and final game of the Caribbean Challenge.