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MSU Women’s Basketball: No. 11 Michigan Wolverines Preview

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Spartans head to Ann Arbor to take on their rival

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 24 Women’s Michigan State at Wisconsin Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Michigan State Spartans finish up a road stand with a trip to Ann Arbor tomorrow afternoon to take on the No. 11/12 Michigan Wolverines at 4:30 p.m. EST with the game airing on the Big Ten Network. The 11-5 Spartans (6-5 in the Big Ten) started off the road trip with a win over the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday, and will make up the previously postponed game at Michigan following postponements from both programs on Jan. 18 and Jan. 28.

Tomorrow marks the 94th meeting all-time between the two programs with MSU holding a 72-21 advantage in the series. Michigan State is 28-13 all-time in Ann Arbor and head coach Suzy Merchant holds a 22-7 record overall against Michigan. However, the series has been tight of late as Michigan swept the season last year, winning both games, and the programs are 3-3 over the last six games.

The Wolverines currently rank No. 11 in the AP and No. 12 in the Coaches Polls. Michigan played its first game last Thursday at Purdue following a two-week athletic department wide shutdown, beating Purdue 62-49. It was the Wolverines’ first game back since losing at Ohio State on Jan. 21 81-77. The victory against the Boilermakers moved Michigan to 11-1 overall and 6-1 in the Big Ten. The win also put the Wolverines in second place in the league by win percentage (.857) trailing 10-1 Maryland (.909).

Michigan led at Purdue from the start and saw junior forward Naz Hillmon and junior combo guard/forward Leigha Brown combine for 41 points in the win. Hillmon also recorded her ninth double-double of the year as she grabbed 10 boards to go along with her 21 points.

Hillmon is second in the Big Ten and tied for third in the country in scoring with her average of 25.7 points per game while ranking second in both the league and country in field goal percentage (.643). She averages a double-double while leading the conference and ranking ninth in the NCAA with her 12.1 boards per game. Brown is the second leading scoring for Michigan with her 19.8 points per game, while guard Akienreh Johnson rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.5 points per game and averages 6.4 boards.

The Wolverines feature a balanced attack, ranking fourth in the Big Ten in scoring offense with 79.8 points per game. The team also ranks third in scoring defense, holding opponents to an average 59.2 points per game. The stark margin ranks the team second in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation in scoring margin (+20.6). It is easily explained, though, when seeing the team ranks first in the conference (though just 36th nationally) in field goal percentage defense, holding teams to an average of just .362 per game while ranking fourth in the league in field goal percentage with .474 shooting.

With a win tomorrow, MSU head coach Suzy Merchant will inch closer to her 500th career win and 300th win as the head coach at Michigan State. Merchant’s career record is now 493-273 while her MSU record is 292-153 over her 14 seasons as the head coach in East Lansing. She reached the 400 win mark in her career on Feb. 16, 2016 over Minnesota at the Breslin Center and her 200th win at MSU on Feb. 24, 2016 at Illinois.