The last time that Michigan State and the Lady Lions met at the Bryce Jordan Center –– Jan. 7, 2012 –– the outcome was much different. It was a game that left the Lions on the wrong end of a 10-point defeat and the loss handed the squad its second-straight at home.
Since then, the No. 8 Lions (20-3, 10-1 Big Ten) have not dropped a single game on their home floor, and with a 71-56 win over the Spartans yesterday, the team has now rattled off 18-straight at home.
However, the squad had to come from behind to notch its 10th win in the conference.
At the 7:36 mark of the first half, Spartan sophomore forward Becca Mills knocked down a 3-pointer and gave her squad a nine-point lead. Twenty-six seconds later, Mills fouled Lion senior guard Alex Bentley and sent her to the line for two shots.
Bentley hit both from the charity stripe and helped to ignite a 21-7 run to close the first half, giving the Lions a five-point advantage at halftime. From there, the Lions never relinquished the lead and accredited it to their defensive pressure.
“Coach [Coquese Washington] was telling us what we needed to do and we just went out there and did it,” Bentley said. “We needed to adjust on defense and we needed more energy on the defensive end. [We] started to get after it and that’s when the game started turning around.”
The Lions continued their intensity after recess and built their lead to 19 with just over 12 minutes to play with major contributions coming from Bentley and fellow guard Maggie Lucas.
Bentley finished with a game-high 24 points –– her second straight game with 20 points or more –– while Lucas added 19 of her own. The duo did most of their scoring after the half and fell two points shy of the Spartans’ team total in the second half.
“Co[quese] just kept telling me to get in the lane, we were in the bonus there for a while, so you know challenging me to get in the lane,” Bentley said. “The posts kept helping me out there too with their screens and their steals, so half my points really go to them.”
Once again though, it was the Lions’ ability to transition their defense into offense that was the squad’s saving grace. As a unit, they forced 22 turnovers and scored 29 points off of them.
“We take pride and we work hard on our defense, we want to make it tough for people to get good shots and get open looks,” the Lions’ head coach Washington said. “As the course of the game went, I felt like we got stronger defensively, I felt like we got more confident defensively and we played together better defensively, it kind of grew throughout the game. It doesn’t matter how we get our opportunities, whether it’s from our defense or whether it’s from good offense execution, we just want to be aggressive attacking the basket.”
The Lions will now prepare for a Thursday night clash at 8 at Iowa.