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After prodding from her coach, Jankoska rebounds in win

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Michigan State's Tori Jankoska makes a nice pass to Akyah Taylor on Saturday.

Indianapolis — It would be easy to say Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant got Tori Jankoska’s attention with her comments during the Spartans’ press conference following their 65-64 quarterfinal win over Purdue Friday night.

Merchant said Jankoska was “better than what she’s playing, and she needs to process what she sees too and not be defined by a jump shot.”

Merchant added that Jankoska “can drive it, dish it, get inside, play a good defense, she’s a good rebounding guard, she can start our break. There’s a lot of things she can do.”

Well, just call Merchant’s comments a wake-up call and did Jankoska ever respond.

After a subpar performance — seven points on 3-of-10 shooting — in the quarterfinal, Jankoska had an outstanding all-around game against the Buckeyes, finishing with 23 points, eight rebounds, six assists and just one turnover, playing all 40 minutes in a dominating 82-63 win to earn the right to play No. 5 Maryland in the title game Sunday night.

Jankoska had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists without a turnover with the Spartans holding a 60-30 lead in the third quarter.

Jankoska was aggressive from the opening minutes, scoring off a driving layup to give the Spartans a 14-6 lead.

She was never better than during a 22-4 run at the end of the half to open up a 24-point (44-20) halftime lead. She opened up the run by scoring eight straight points, including two 3-pointers.

“Coming into the game I had a different mindset than yesterday,” Jankoska said. “I wanted to play more free, talking more, being a leader out there, focusing more on defense, focusing more on rebounding because getting rebounds and pushing it is kind of where we get our energy from. Just focusing on some different things other than missing or making shots.”

And, Jankoska was the primary defender on Ohio State sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell who scored 48 the last time the teams met, a 107-105 triple-overtime win by the Spartans last Saturday at the Breslin Center, preventing the Buckeyes from earning a share of the regular-season title.

Mitchell was limited to 20 points, six under her average, on 4-of-18 shooting.

Jankoska acted like a leader, telling the Spartans to stay focused and continue to play hard when their largest lead of 36 was getting cut during the final quarter.

"In the fourth quarter, we turned the ball over a little too much," Jankoska said. "I was trying to stress it to everybody, stay in it and tighten up on offense, tighten up on defense. We're trying to use this momentum to go into tomorrow. I was trying to make sure that we stayed in it and putting the pressure on and kept our momentum going into tomorrow."