EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Liz Shimek just finished her final
exams, but two bigger basketball tests await after a 23-point
Shimek scored 24 points and Michigan State (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today; No. 11 AP) overcame a
sluggish start to beat Houston 76-53 on Saturday night. But all the
talk was of back-to-back visits to No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 3 LSU
the next two Wednesdays.
"We're really excited about the challenge ahead," Shimek said.
"We didn't really step up to the plate in the Virgin Islands
[losing to No. 1 Tennessee and No. 8 Maryland]. Now, we have to
take those lessons and run with them."
Shimek, the Big Ten's leading scorer, was 11-for-14 from the
field against the Cougars. She also had eight rebounds and five
assists as the Spartans (7-2) won their fifth straight game.
Victoria Lucas-Perry scored 14 points, Rene Haynes had 13 and
Lindsay Bowen added 11 for Michigan State, which made it 18
straight wins in Breslin Center.
"That's a great environment for women's basketball," Houston
coach Joe Curl said. "We've been pretty good the last five or six
years. But we're a little down, and Michigan State could've really
put it on us. That shows the class of their coaches and players."
Tye Jackson, a transfer from Purdue, had 26 points on 7-for-27
shooting in her first game with the Cougars (2-5). Freshman
Sha'Ratta Hawkins, the No. 3 scorer in Conference USA, had 12
points for Houston.
"I know basketball is meant to be played inside-out," Curl
said after his starting guards were 9-for-40 from the field. "I
know that because we've been seeded as high as No. 2 in the NCAA
Tournament. But from the penthouse to the outhouse is a short
distance. It's all about the players."
The Spartans trailed 22-21 when Shimek scored three times and
fed Lucas-Perry for a 3-pointer to spark a 24-6 surge that ended
the first half. The lead grew to 26 points with 7:35 left.
"It was good practice in shutting down an opponent's go-to
players," Lucas-Perry said. "You have to take everything as
preparation. And we're prepared to play more as a team."
Michigan State had a 56-39 rebounding edge but committed 26
turnovers. The Cougars shot 25 percent from the field and missed 27
"We had more people get involved in rebounding than at any time
this year," Spartans coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "That's good,
because against Oklahoma I'd suggest we get as many people
rebounding as we can."
Michigan State won tough nonconference games at Notre Dame and
Connecticut last year but knows the Sooners and Tigers won't be
"We're excited about this opportunity," McCallie said. "No
question, those games we lost left a sour taste in our mouths. And
no question, we're a more physical team and more mature than we
were in the Virgin Islands."