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Michigan State overcomes lapses to defeat Purdue, advance to Big Ten semifinal

By Emily Kennedy | @Emily_AKennedy

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Aerial Powers scored 26 points and Branndais Agee added 13 to lead the Michigan State Spartans to a 65-64 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers in a quarterfinal of the Big Ten Women’s Tournament Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The No. 3 Spartans (23-7) advanced to a semifinal game against No. 2 Ohio State partly because of the resourcefulness of senior center Jasmine Hines and junior guard Tori Jankoska. Hines scored 4 of her 11 points and had 4 of her 8 rebounds in the fourth quarter. Jankoska, who was scoreless in the first three quarters, made 3 of 4 shots and scored 7 points with two steals in the final period.

Purdue junior guard Bridget Perry scored 18 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, for the Boilermakers (20-11). Senior guard April Wilson scored 15 points with 6 assists. Wilson’s total of 175 assists is third in a single season in Ohio State history. But Wilson also committed 10 of Ohio State’s 20 turnovers, including four in the fourth quarter.

Hines had been one of several Spartans that were challenged by Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant. The Spartans were trailing, 32-25, at halftime. They had committed 10 turnovers to just four assists. They had made just 34.4 percent of their shots and allowed Purdue to make 47.8 of its attempts.

“I got into Hines quite a bit because, you know, she can’t just show up one game, and, like, not the next,” Merchant said.

“Coach got into us like she should,” Powers said. “And just told us, defensively we weren’t there. We weren’t getting stops. And then offensively, we were kind of confused, all over the place, and not focused.

“So she told us we need to attack the basket,” Powers went on, “because, honestly, our shots were not falling.”

Eventually, the difference would be dramatic. Michigan State made 10 of 15 shots in the fourth quarter. A layup by Jankoska with 7:07 to play, following a steal and assist by Powers, gave the Spartans a 51-49 lead. They would never lose that lead, and when a layup by Hines gave Michigan State a 64-58 lead with 1:10 to play, a spot in the semifinals seemed secure.

But Purdue’s Perry made a jumper with 33 seconds to play, and after a turnover by Agee, Perry recovered from a hard foul to make two free throws to cut the lead to 64-62 with 20 seconds to go.

Powers made two foul shots with 15 seconds to go for a three-point lead. Wilson, a 35-percent three-point shooter, missed with five seconds to play. Sophomore center Bree Horrocks converted the rebound with three seconds to go, but it was too late.

“We just kept fighting,” Powers said. “And once we took the lead, you know, that’s when I felt confident.”

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