MSU women run away from Oakland

Al Willman
Special to The Detroit News
Oakland's Nola Anderson drives to the basket in the first quarter Sunday.

Rochester -- It was a road game for the No. 25 ranked Michigan State women's basketball team on Sunday. While the distance -- 65 miles -- was relatively close between the Spartans and the Golden Grizzlies, the score was not. Michigan State won 82-62.

"Usually when you go away, you have less fans there," said MSU redshirt junior forward Aerial Powers. "We had a little bit more because it's basically down the street. I think that helps, too, to have some MSU fans come down and support us."

Jasmine Hines led the Spartans (7-2) with a career-high 21 points. Aerial Powers added 17 and Branndais Agee 13. Tori Jankoska scored 11.

"Jas hadn't been playing her 'A' game lately," said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant of the 6-foot-3 center. "She was kind of overthinking it. We felt like we could establish ourselves inside against these guys. We tried to attack inside early, and I think Jas did a good job responding to that and really being ready to finish."

Agee completed the double-double with 10 rebounds.

Olivia Nash and Taylor Jones each had 14 points to lead Oakland (5-4). Taylor Gleason added 11 and Elena Popkey 10.

"I'm really proud of our team and how hard we competed," said Oakland coach Jeff Tungate. "I thought we really came out to play."

Hines quickly scored the first four points for Michigan State. The Spartans went on a 7-2 run to start the game, but a 3-pointer from Popkey (Warren Cousino) and good defensive pressure from the Golden Grizzlies kept them in for the early part of the half.

"In practice, we've really been focusing on getting the ball inside," Hines said. "I just knew that my teammates were going to be looking for me and I just had to execute."

The Spartans began to run away late, and at the end of the first quarter they had a 25-13 lead.

"Obviously, we got down big in the first quarter, but our team never quit," Tungate said. "We kept battling."

In the second quarter, Oakland's offense heated up. It cut Michigan State's lead to as few as five points (29-14, 7:30 left). Jones scored the first five points of the quarter for Oakland.

The Spartans picked up the pace and led by as much as 16 (32-16, 7:01 left). They led 43-30 at halftime.

Hines had 12 points at the break, leading all scorers. Jones had 11 for Oakland.

"I think both teams obviously have competitors," Tungate said. "I thought we did a good job matching that physicality for the most part."

Oakland came out swinging in the second half, but its defense couldn't keep up.

Nash had eight points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, but the Spartans began to run away. With 4:12 left in the third quarter, they had a 59-42 lead.

Nash, who shot 6-of-9 from the floor and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line in the second half, said she made adjustments from the first half, when she did not take a shot.

"Coach told me to play like I had no fouls," said Nash, who had three in the first half. "That's pretty much what I did."

Tungate said he thought the loss would propel his team forward as it prepares for the Horizon League season.

"Obviously, you never like to lose," Tungate said. "But I think it's something we can learn a lot from. If we can play this way, we can have a lot to play for this season."

Making adjustments

Women's college basketball has undergone a number of changes this season. The most significant is the switch from two halves to four quarters.

Merchant was direct about her thoughts on the switch.

"I don't like the quarters," said Merchant, in her 21st year as a college head coach. "I'm just old-school. I don't like any rule they've passed (this year). I don't know if it's better for women's basketball."

Tungate, in his third season as a head coach, said he didn't mind the switch.

"You can really do a lot with the lineups," he said. "With the media timeouts at five minutes now, you can play people for longer stretches. You don't need to sub people as frequently depending on when those media timeouts occur."

Al Willman is a freelance writer.