The No. 17/18 Michigan State women’s basketball team opens the 2007-08 season with a home matchup against IUPUI Friday, Nov. 9 in the first round of the Preseason WNIT. The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Breslin Center. MSU went 2-0 in the exhibition season with wins over Grand Valley State (72-42) and Lake Superior State (71-52).This marks the first time in program history that the Spartans will compete in the Preseason WNIT. The event, which is in its 14th season, features 16 teams from 16 different conferences. The season-opening tournament will feature a new format in 2007, as it moves from single elimination to a three-game guarantee format. Nine of the 16 teams in the tournament are coming off postseason play.
Michigan State will face either Evansville or Marshall in the next round of the tournament Sunday in East Lansing (game time TBA; will be announced Friday night). Evansville hosts Marshall Friday at 6 p.m.
Suzy Merchant BEGINS FIRST SEASON IN EAST LANSING
Suzy Merchant, who owns a 201-120 (.626) career record in 12 years as a head coach, begins her first season leading the Michigan State women’s basketball program. She has spent the past nine seasons at Eastern Michigan, compiling a 147-91 (.618) record to become the program’s all-time winningest coach. She led EMU to three 20-win seasons, three postseason appearances, including the 2004 NCAA Tournament, and two Mid-American Conference West Division titles. Prior to coaching at Eastern Michigan, Merchant had a 54-29 (.651) record in three years at Saginaw Valley State.
QUICK LOOK AT THE SPARTANS
â€¢ MSU returns two starters and seven letterwinners from last season’s team that went 24-9 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
â€¢ Sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan set a Big Ten record last season with 145 blocked shots. She is the team’s top returning scorer (12.5 ppg) and rebounder (7.5 rpg). A preseason All-Big Ten selection, she was named second-team All-Big Ten last season and was tabbed the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
â€¢ The Spartans lost Aisha Jefferson to a season-ending knee injury in the second exhibition game against Lake Superior State. Jefferson, one of three captains named by Coach Merchant, was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last year after averaging 10.4 ppg an 5.6 rpg.
â€¢ The other returning starter, junior guard Mia Johnson, tore her ACL during summer workouts and is not expected back until the start of the Big Ten season. Johnson averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.9 rpg last season, her first for the Green and White after transferring from Saint Louis University in 2005-06.
â€¢ Seniors Courtney Davidson and Alisa Wulff and sophomores Mandy Piechowski and Takeya Fortner all return for MSU. Lauren Aitch, who received a medical redshirt last season due to a torn ACL, is back and healthy this season.
â€¢ The Spartans will rely on a heralded freshman class for minutes this season. The class, ranked among the top 20 in the nation, features point guard Brittney Thomas and forwards Kalisha Keane, Cetera Washington and Taja Wilson.
A LOOK AT IUPUI
IUPUI went 14-16 in 2006-07, falling in the semifinals of the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament. The Jaguars went 7-7 in the conference, good for a fourth-place finish. In its only exhibition game, IUPUI defeated Ohio Legends, 71-62.
The Jaguars return Mid-Con first-team selection and Defensive Player of the Year Jernisha Cann, who averaged 13.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game last season. Cann had 17 points and 13 rebounds in the exhibition win.
Head coach Shann Hart, who enters her fourth year at the helm of the program, also added six heralded recruits to a lineup that returns three of five starters for the 2007-08 campaign.
MICHIGAN STATE-IUPUI SERIES HISTORY
This marks the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and IUPUI.
YOUNG SPARTANS LOOKING FOR HELP FROM FRESHMEN CLASS
With the losses of All-Big Ten guards Rene Haynes and Victoria Lucas-Perry to graduation, and Aisha Jefferson and Mia Johnson to injury, MSU is returning only one of its top five scorers from last season (Allyssa DeHaan). The young Spartans are returning just 25 percent of their points (536), 24 percent of their rebounds (323) and 24 percent of their minutes (1,595) from 2006-07.
QUICK PROGRAM NOTES
â€¢ MSU has compiled four straight 20-win seasons (22 in 2003-04, 33 in 2004-05, 24 in 2005-06, 24 in 2006-07).
â€¢ MSU’s 24 wins in 2006-07 tied for the second-most wins in program history (record: 33 in 2004-05).
â€¢ The Spartans have a combined 103-32 (.763) record the last four seasons. â€¢ MSU has earned five consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, a school record. â€¢ Michigan State is one of 11 schools in the country to advance to the NCAA Tournament Second Round the past four seasons.
â€¢ MSU is 39-4 at home since 2004-05.
â€¢ Michigan State has 27 wins over nationally-ranked opponents in the last six years.