Written by Courtney Wills
Strong consistent and tenacious defense helped clinch the 57-51 victory against the Fighting Illini for the Michigan State Spartans.
The Spartans fought hard as they battled the Illini for the lead in the second half. Even though MSU trailed as much as eight points, 41-33, the Spartans remained patient and focused as they made their way back to regain the lead.
Lindsey Bowenâ€™s key three-pointer boosted the team to go on a sensational 13-2 with about 11:33 left in the second half. This helped MSU to regain the lead 46-43.
From that point on, the Spartans and Fighting Illini battled ferociously back and forth until the Spartans finally put the deadlock on Illinoisâ€™s offense. MSU ceased the momentum of the Illini by attacking their opponentâ€™s inbound opportunities and grabbing every defensive rebound they could.
â€œWe were pressing, and we were defending for 94 feet,â€ MSU head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. â€œWe werenâ€™t sitting back.â€
McCallieâ€™s squad showed a lot of heart down the stretch especially from freshman Aisha Jefferson. Jefferson who aggravated her injured shoulder, rose to the challenge in the second half by sprinting up and down the court trying to keep the Spartans within range to win the game.
â€œWe wanted to be attacking. That was important to us, obviously, because the offensive creation didnâ€™t come very easily,â€ said Jefferson.
With 4:31 left in the game, Illinois and Michigan State were tied at 51. However, the lead would soon go into MSUâ€™s favor as State went into a full-court press making the Illini miss four key shots and turn the ball over twice.
Liz Shimek, who finished with 15 points, made two significant free-throws to give the Spartans the lead 55-51 along with Rene Haynesâ€™ and Jeffersonâ€™s one free throw in the final minute.
Sadly, the Illini would not be able to come back from this one as the Lady Spartans extended its winning streak to seven over Illinois.
MSU will next face the Minnesota Gophers at the Breslin Center as they begin their three game homestand this Thursday night, February 9th.