Feature photo courtesy of Lauren Anikis/Stories Beneath the Shell.
The last time the Terps and Spartans met, Maryland came out on top in the Big Ten Championship game back in March. This time around, the stakes won’t be as high for Maryland, but they may be for Michigan State.
The Spartans come in as a No. 10 seed in ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s bracketology and are currently part of his latest “Last Four In” for the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Suzy Merchant’s team holds a 16-8 overall record with a 6-5 mark in conference.
Michigan State does have a 19-point win over No. 13 Ohio State on its resume, but it can secure an at-large bid-worthy resume with an upset win against Maryland.
For the Spartans to pull the upset over the 24-1 Terps, they will need senior guard Tori Jankoska to play at her highest level. She is averaging 22.1 points per game in Big Ten play, good for second in the conference, and is one of the conference’s best all-around players.
Jankoska is averaging 8.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in Big Ten play while shooting 93.5 percent from the free-throw line and 36.4 percent from 3-point range. She ranks in the top 11 in the conference in all of those statistical categories. The senior guard is already the top scorer in Michigan State history and can score from anywhere, like she showed at the end of the Spartans’ 87-83 overtime loss to Iowa on Thursday.
— Connor Newcomb (@ConnorNewcomb_) February 12, 2017
Unfortunately for Michigan State, Jankoska’s offensive production alone will not be enough to take down the Terps. The Spartans will need senior forward Taya Reimer (10.2 ppg in conference play) and freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon (7.2 ppg in conference play) to step up. Reimer is shooting 48.5 percent from the field in conference and McCutcheon is shooting 39 percent from long range.
No matter how well the Spartans play offensively, however, they will still have to try to defend the Terps, who lead the nation in points per game and are second in shooting percentage. That offense is led by Brionna Jones, who is scoring 20.3 points per game in Big Ten play and is shooting a conference-best 71.4 percent from the floor.
Despite Jones’ success, it has been her fellow senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough who has been Maryland’s most consistent producer over the past two games. She led the Terps in scoring in the last two contests — wins over Illinois and Indiana — and averaged 26 points and 54.3 percent shooting over that span.
Maryland also had an efficient offense last season, but it was its defense that led the team to its victory over Michigan State in the conference championship game. The Terps held the Spartans to only 44 points in that game and held Jankoska to just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. If Brenda Frese’s team can pin down Jankoska again on Sunday, the Terps shouldn’t have a problem picking up their 13th consecutive victory and 25th victory overall.
The game between the Terps and Spartans will tip off at 2 p.m. at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. The matchup can be seen on ESPN2.
Edited by Justin Meyer.
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