Indianapolis, Ind.-- In the semifinals' second contest, the Michigan State Spartans (27-3, 14-2) withstood a three-point onslaught by the Penn State Lady Lions (19-10, 13-3) to advance to the tournament finals by a score of 83-76.
The game's first six minutes were highlighted by Lion Jennifer Brenden's three three-pointers. She added one more before halftime and went into the break with a game-high 14 points.
Brenden was not the only Lion hitting from outside the arc. Jennifer Harris also connected from downtown in the first 20 minutes.
With five and a half minutes left in the first half Jess Strom moved across mid-court and despite being unguarded, fell to the ground in pain. She was helped to the locker room, and did not return in the first half.
Michigan State's Kristin Haynie advanced the ball into the front court with under five seconds and passed the ball to Lindsay Bowen. She caught the pass and released it with four-hundredths of a second and hit a 24-foot shot to give Michigan State the halftime lead at 42-40. With the basket, Haynie joined teammates Liz Shimek and Kelli Roehrig with nine points at halftime.
With Roehrig in the paint and Penn State without a true-center, the Lions spread the floor and allowed the forwards to roam. The game plan provided sophomore Amanda Brown the opportunity to finish the opening period with 11 points.
As the second half opened, Strom was conspicuous by her presence in the Penn State lineup and it didn't take long to prove that her ankle was just fine. Less than a minute into the period, she spotted-up from the right elbow and knocked down a three. A minute and a half later, she intercepted a pass and led the break before spotting up from the left side to hit her second triple of the half. After being held to just two points in the first half, Strom finished with 16 points, including three three-point field goals.
Just 19 seconds after halftime ended, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and co-scoring champion Tanisha Wright committed her third personal foul and was forced to the Penn State bench a minute later. At the 11:40 mark, Wright earned her fourth and sat for the next six minutes. She ended the night with 12 points.
In the second half, Roehrig began to take advantage of her dominance in the middle. She put up four quick points and dished a pair of assists in the first eight minutes of the second stanza. She finished with 19 points, four assists, and seven boards.
At the 8:15 mark, Bowen hit a three-point basket to give Michigan State its biggest lead of the night at nine, but on the return-trip down the floor, Brenden hit her fifth three of the game. Brenden ended the contest with a game-high 24 points on 6-10 three-point shooting.
Just as the Spartans looked like they might have been distancing themselves from the Lady Lions, Brenden took a Strom pass and hit yet another three-pointer to cut the MSU lead to 79-74 with 1:18 left.
At that point, Penn State turned on a diamond-and-one full-court trapping-press, and after the trap was unsuccessful, was forced to foul. Liz Shimek was the first to visit the stripe, hitting only the first one, but tracked down her own rebound in the corner and calling a timeout to maintain possession with 64 seconds remaining in the contest. Shimek ended the game with 18 points, as did Haynie, who also finished with six rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
On the subsequent possession, Wright committed her fifth foul, sending Bowen to the line and Wright to the bench. Bowen hit one-of-two free-throws, which essentially iced an 83-76 win. Bowen finished the night with 10 points.
The lose marks only the second time in tournament history that neither Purdue, nor Penn State will played in the championship game.
The Spartans move onto the finals at 7:00 p.m. ET Monday night to battle the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Michigan State won both regular-season match-ups by 13 and 31 respectively. Check back to BigTen.org for the latest news, scores, and stats from the 2005 Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament.