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Tori Jankoska powers MSU women past Michigan

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Michigan State forward Victoria Gaines (15) and guard Tori Jankoska try to block a shot by Michigan center Hallie Thome.

Ann Arbor – Tori Jankoska wanted one more lasting memory from playing in the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry before closing out her college career.

Jankoska, a 5-foot-8 senior guard, scored 28 points to lead Michigan State to a 86-68 victory over No. 20 Michigan Sunday afternoon at the Crisler Center before 12,707, the largest crowd to ever watch a UM women’s basketball game at the site.

It was a big victory for the Spartans (18-9, 8-6), who are on the NCAA tournament bubble, needing victories, especially against top-20 teams.

“This game is special, especially for me growing up in Michigan, being a Michigan State fan my whole life,” said Jankoska, who earned the Miss Basketball award for the state four years ago while playing for Freeland. “It’s definitely a special game, it’s a special rivalry and there’s more competitive juices going. Every game is important, but this one is just a little bit closer to your heart.

“This was huge, probably one of the more important games we’ve played all season. They’re ranked, it’s a good road win and those are the things that the (NCAA tournament) selection committee looks for.”

Jankoska showed she would be a factor early, scoring 13 points in the opening quarter to give the Spartans a 10-point lead, making all five of her shots, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Jankoska, who entered the game averaging 22.1 points, and Michigan junior Katelynn Flaherty (20.3 points) are among the top guards in the Big Ten.

But while Jankoska got off to a fast start following her triple-double performance (24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) last week in a 85-69 win over Minnesota, Flaherty was off her game with Jankoska defending her, and didn’t score until late in the first half.

“We need Tori to score, but I think sometimes she is a little underrated in other areas -- her ability to be a playmaker, her ability to get rebounds and her ability to defend,” said Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant. “She is always guarding one of the better swing guys that we go against and nobody's better than Flaherty, but I thought she did a really good job.

“She’s (Flaherty) really good at splitting hedges so we worked on timing and getting our hands low versus high on hedges so she couldn’t put the ball through us, so I thought she (Jankoska) did a great job. Tori is kind of our energy guy and when she’s making shots you know good things are going to happen for your team.”

Michigan freshman guard Kysre Gondrezick scored 13 second-quarter points to keep the Wolverines close before Flaherty’s driving layup late in the first half gave Michigan a 43-42 halftime lead.

However, Michigan (21-7, 10-4) got sloppy with the ball during the third quarter (seven turnovers) and the Spartans made the Wolverines pay, using a 16-2 run to turn a 47-46 deficit into a 62-49 lead midway through the quarter.

“That’s where we get a lot of our energy from, forcing turnovers and playing good defense and getting stops, and then we’re all fired up and we can go and run in transition,” Jankoska said.

It would be a lead the Spartans would hold the rest of the way. Michigan cut the deficit to six (64-58) before Jankoska made another three with 22 seconds left to open up a 67-58 lead.

“Jankoska was definitely a difference-maker, a special player,” noted Michigan 6-5 sophomore Hallie Thome, who scored 21, making 10-of-18 shots. “I think she definitely got the momentum swinging their way at points and it was kind of hard to fight back because she kept punching and punching and we weren’t able to find a way.”

It was the first time this season Michigan has lost two straight games.

Michigan State shot 58.1 percent from the field, making 10-of-20 3-pointers, 5-of-10 by Jankoska and 3-of-3 by point guard Taryn McCutcheon.

Jankoska became Michigan State’s career leader in 3-pointers with 297, topping the 294 by Lindsay Bowen, who played on the Spartans’ national runnerup team in 2005.

“It’s a great accomplishment and making threes is really exciting and one of my favorite things, but I like to be able to do all the other things too, like getting triple-doubles,” Jankoska said.

Taya Reimer, a 6-4 senior, and 5-11 senior guard Brandi Agee each had 15 points and five rebounds for the Spartans.

Gondrezick scored 19 and Flaherty just four on 2-of-12 shooting. The Wolverines were limited to 43.2 percent shooting and made just 3-of-17 3-pointers.

Still, Thome was thrilled to see the record-breaking crowd.

"It was a great experience for us to have those fans and for them to be like our sixth man to keep us going," Thome said. "We didn't get the outcome we wanted, but it was definitely great to have their support the whole entire game."