No. 17 MSU women win in rout over UM, 85-64

Michael Epps
Special to The Detroit News
Michigan State's Branndais Agee (10) takes a fast break to the basket over the top of Michigan's Jillian Dunston as MSU defeats UM, 85-64, Wednesday at Breslin Center.

East Lansing — Michigan State’s women’s basketball team only needed four seconds to set the tone and blow past their in-state rival Wednesday night.

Guard Branndais Agee stole the opening tip-off and made the tough layup, putting the No. 17 Spartans on a path to an 85-64 blowout victory over the Michigan Wolverines.

“We set the tone out of the gates,” head coach Suzy Merchant said after the game. “We played with high levels of enthusiasm because we wanted things to go our way. We had a demeanor that had us thinking that this game is ours.”

The Spartans, behind a potent inside-out combination of Agee and forward Ariel Powers, improved their record to 17-4 overall and 8-2 in Big Ten. Powers, a junior from Detroit, scored 27, while Agee, a sophomore from Detroit, tallied a career-high 20 points and knocked down 4 of 5 3-point attempts.

The Spartans looked confident early in the first quarter, with Powers knocking down a tough pull-up jump shot and guard Tori Jankoska making back-to-back huge 3-pointers, forcing Michigan to call an early timeout with a 13-4 deficit.

Michigan guard Katelynn Flaherty, 10th in the nation averaging 22.2 points, put up a fight against the surging Spartans with 13 points in the first half. With no other source of offense, though, the Wolverines fell behind 48-28 at the end of the first half.

“It’s something behind playing your rival,” Powers said. “We started hot, and we came out firing, partly because of the colors on the other jerseys. We came out hard in this rivalry game because we knew they were going to try to come at us.”

The Wolverines flirted with a comeback early in the second half, but Powers took the game over. She closed the third quarter with a dagger, spinning through the lane for a strong layup and sinking a 3-pointer 21 seconds later, to give MSU a 72-45 lead at the end of the quarter.

“Powers played like the All-American she is,” Michigan head coach Kim Barnes said. “Whenever we tried to make a run, they put their foot on the gas and pulled away, and she was a big part of that. They are one of the most physical teams in the country, and they pushed us around.”

The Spartans continue to dominate the series, winning five of the last seven and 17 of the last 20 meetings.

The Spartans were focused and confident throughout the game, just as they have been playing of late. They head into their matchup against No. 5 Maryland on Friday with a 7-1 record in of January.

Michael Epps is a freelance writer