Spartans on top after close heartbreaker
The Michigan State Spartans earned a 60-59 comeback, overtime win against the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team Saturday in East Lansing.
The Eagles led for most of the game but couldn’t close the Spartans out in regulation when they had their best chance. It was 52-52 going into OT.
Senior guard Tavelyn James made two free throws to put the Eagles up 52-49 with 28 seconds remaining in the second half. It was more than enough time for MSU’s Jasmine Thomas to make a three-pointer to take the game into overtime.
EMU coach, Ann Marie Gilbert, a former MSU recruiting coordinator, said, “I was really proud of our kids and what they did.”
The Eagles were in control well into the start of the second half leading the Spartans by as many as 14 points with 11 minutes remaining. The Eagles shot 40 percent from the field and the Spartans’ shot 38.
“Our kids matched them bucket for bucket,” Gilbert said. “I was really proud of what they did. Tavelyn had zero points in the first half, and our kids had the lead.”
The Eagles are 5-2 while the Spartans are 6-3. The Eagles are 1-10 in East Lansing and 3-16 overall against MSU. To put make things worse, Saturday’s loss was MSU’s coach Suzy Merchant first victory against her former basketball program.
“I thought that we really deserved this game,” Gilbert said. “I thought for 44 minutes, I thought we outplayed them. We are really gunning for a MAC Championship. If we could play this kind of defense we can certainly be a contender.”
In overtime, EMU could not score, resulting in quick offense from MSU’s freshman Kiana Johnson. It was MSU’s Lykendra Johnson,who sealed the victory for MSU as she made key free throws in overtime and grabbed a couple of clutch defensive rebounds.
“Had (Paige) Redditt who fouled out been in there, we would’ve gone to Redditt,” Gilbert said. “They would have thought we would’ve gone to Tavelyn, but we would’ve gone to Redditt. But I think that’s the difference in this basketball game. If we had Paige Redditt, I think we would have won the game.”
James had a rough game offensively shooting 7-for-25 from the field, 2-for-7 from the 3-point line, and had four turnovers. However, she had a game-high 19 points, and she had two assists, five rebounds, and one steal.
Fellow senior Redditt had a good game as she recorded a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds, along with a block, two steals and an assist. However, she fouled out in overtime with 4:10 left.
“Paige Redditt, she is ranked in the nation in rebounding,” Gilbert said. “And, I told her 10 is not even, I want her to get that up to 15, and then get that up to 20. She knew; she had a lot of respect for Kendra Johnson, but I thought she matched her toe for toe on the glass.”
Sophomore Natachia Watkins also had a good game for the Eagles. She scored 12, got nine rebounds and blocked two shots.
“It is very much a team game,” Gilbert said. “I’m really proud of Natashia Watkins; I’m really proud of Desyree Thomas, being a young unproven point guard. She held her own. She had quite a few turnovers. But, she is a kid that is growing.”
The Eagles defense held MSU to 23-for-61 shooting from the field and 4-for-17 from the three-point line. EMU didn’t help itself by turning the ball over 19 times and shooting 25-for-63 from the field and 3-for-9 from the 3-point line.
The Eagles return to action against the University of Missouri Kansas City at 7 p.m. Friday at the Convocation Center.