March 4, 2006
Everyone Stepping Up for the Buckeyes
When preparing to play against Ohio State, the top concern on opponents' minds has to be All-American forward Jessica Davenport. The 6 foot 4 inch Davenport was recently named Big Ten Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, and has been a dominating force in the conference for four years.
But when their star player got into foul trouble, Davenport's teammates quickly adjusted and executed the game plan without her. "We have to open up the floor when she isn't in there," said Buckeye Head Coach Jim Foster. "When she isn't there, we have to make the floor bigger to score. We have the attributes on this team to get to the basket, we have some three point shooters and we have players who can beat you off the dribble."
"It's different playing without Jess," according to teammate Debbie Merrill, who played 27 minutes and scored 11 points against Penn State. "Everyone has to step up, and I think everyone did step up and we figured out what we needed to do."
The Buckeyes hope that Davenport will play a key role in the road through the Big Ten Tournament and into the NCAA Championships, but they know that even if they have to play without her, they are confident that a well-executed game plan will take them where they need to go.
Shimek Coming Up Big When It Counts
Liz Shimek was undoubtedly the star of the second quarterfinal game on Friday afternoon when she accounted for 31 points in the Spartans 79-58 victory over Iowa. It was a career-high for the senior, who is playing in her final Big Ten Tournament and looking for her second-straight Big Ten Tournament title.
The Wooden Award Midseason All-American is the first Michigan State player, and one of only seven players in Big Ten history to score over 1,600 career points and pull in over 1,000 rebounds. In Friday's quarterfinal game, she passed classmate and best friend Lindsay Bowen and took over the top spot on Michigan State's career scoring chart. Also the leading rebounder in school history, Shimek was named Big Ten Player of the Week four times this season. She and Bowen have been preparing for this postseason, the last of their college careers, since their magical postseason run last year ended in the Final Four.
"It was a lot of fun to be out there with my team today," said Shimek after the game. "We had 28 assists and we were hitting whoever was open. We were really attacking and going after it as a team." Defensively, Shimek pulled down five boards and added three steals. As a team, the Spartans forced 17 turnovers while coughing up the ball only nine times.
"Lindsay and I are seniors and this is our last Big Ten Tournament, so we're just trying to stay in the moment," said the 6 foot 1 inch forward. So far, so good as the pair led their team to a convincing 21-point victory in their first playoff game of the year. If they can match the effort of Friday's game, both offensively and defensively, their goals of returning to the Final Four might be realized.
Top-seeded Ohio State advances to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament for the seventh time in program history courtesy of a 64-46 win over No. 8 Penn State in the quarterfinals. The Buckeyes enter the contest at 26-2 with their only conference loss this season coming Jan. 1, 2006 in West Lafayette, Ind., 61-59. OSU enters the contest riding a 17-game winning streak. It is the second-longest winning streak in Ohio State school history.
Fourth-seeded Michigan State advance to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament to face the Buckeyes after a 79-58 win over No. 5 Iowa. The Spartans enter the contest 22-8 on the season. It is the fifth appearance in the conference semifinals for MSU.
Ohio State enters the contest ranked No. 6/7, and Michigan State earned a No. 14/16 in the latest polls. The Buckeyes are 6-2 against ranked opponents this season, while the Spartans are 3-7.
Ohio State is 16-11 at the Big Ten Tournament and 2-1 playing as the No. 1 seed. In the semifinals of the conference tournament, the Buckeyes are 2-4. OSU is the third team to repeat as the top seed.
The reigning Big Ten Tournament champion, Michigan State, is 9-10 when playing in the conference tournament. This is the first year the Spartans have competed as the No. 4 seed.
Ohio State is 2-4 when playing in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, while Michigan State is 1-3.
The two teams have met in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on one other occasion. In 1995, then-No. 7 Ohio State topped then-No. 6 Michigan State, 70-63.
Michigan State is 0-1 in the Big Ten Tournament against No. 1 seeds, while Ohio State is 1-1 against a No. 4 seed, with its only victory coming in a 70-61 quarterfinal win of the 1999 conference tournament against Wisconsin.
Ohio State's Jim Foster is 5-3 in Big Ten Tournament play, while Michigan State's Joanne P. McCallie is 5-4 in post-season conference action.
The Buckeyes and Spartans will be meeting for a record-tying seven times in the Big Ten Tournament with Ohio State holding a 5-1lead in the series. It will equal the record set by Ohio State and Penn State on Friday, March 3. The last time the two teams squared off in post-season conference play was in 2003's quarterfinals, where the Buckeyes claimed a 71-55 victory.
The last time Michigan State defeated Ohio State at the Big Ten Tournament was in the 1997 quarterfinals. MSU won the contest, 85-79.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Michigan State, 43-19, including a 2-0 mark against the Spartans this season. When playing at a neutral site, OSU holds the 9-3 advantage over MSU.
The last time the Buckeyes and Spartans met in regular-season play was on Feb. 20, 2006 in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes earned the 69-38 win courtesy of Jessica Davenport's 22 points and five rebounds. Both Rene Haynes and Laura Hall netted seven points for the Spartans.
The last time Michigan State topped Ohio State was Feb. 20, 2005 when the Spartans notched a 66-64 win in East Lansing, Mich.
The winner will advance to the finals on Monday, March 6 to face either Indiana or Purdue.