8:00 PM ET, January 12, 2006
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Coming off the best season in school history that ended with a loss in the national championship game, Michigan State coach Joanne McCallie was worried her team might be a little spoiled.It almost caught up with the Spartans (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today; No. 9 AP) on Thursday night, until a freshman saved them.Aisha Jefferson scored with 1:05 to play to give Michigan State its first lead of the second half. She added three free throws in the final minute as the Spartans scored the game's final nine points to escape with a 69-63 victory over Wisconsin."We've got, I think, some spoiled players. Spoiled from the success of last year, spoiled from going to the Final Four," McCallie said. "[They don't] realize that none of that matters now."Wisconsin (6-10, 1-4 Big Ten) took a 55-45 lead on consecutive 3-pointers from Jolene Anderson with 7 minutes left, but Michigan State (13-4, 3-1) finished on a 24-8 run.Jefferson's basket started the closing 9-0 spurt and the 6-foot-1 forward scored seven of the Spartans' last 11 points."I know that she can make plays," Michigan State guard Lindsay Bowen said of Jefferson. "We had all the confidence in the world in her, and she just made some great plays."Liz Shimek scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, giving her 1,000 for her career, to lead the Spartans. She is the first Michigan State player to reach the milestone, and the eighth in Big Ten history.Ashley Josephson scored 15 points to lead Wisconsin, while Anderson added 14 and Danielle Ward had 13.Anderson, who averages 17.7 points per game, nearly registered the Badgers' first-ever triple double. She had 10 assists and eight rebounds."That's something I do concentrate on going into the game, getting those assists and rebounds and not worrying about my points," she said.After Anderson's consecutive 3s gave Wisconsin the 10-point lead, the Badgers struggled against Michigan State's fullcourt press and the Spartans took advantage of turnovers and second-chance points to get back in the game.Rene Haynes' steal led to Jefferson's go-ahead basket, and Bowen's steal on Wisconsin's next possession led to two free throws by Jefferson and a 66-63 lead."We shot ourselves in the foot with some poor decisions in the last two minutes," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said. "It's too bad, because this team deserved to win this one."Michigan State led by as many as six points in a seesaw first half before the Badgers went on a 14-4 run to take a 30-26 halftime lead.The 6-4 Ward, who gave up plenty of bulk to Shimek and Laura Hall, had 10 points and six rebounds in the first half.Anderson made a 3-pointer with 3:21 left to give Wisconsin a 61-56 lead, but Bowen answered with two free throws and Jefferson blocked Ward's shot and then scored on the other end.It was Wisconsin's third close call against a Top 15 team. The Badgers lost to then-No. 15 Minnesota on Jan. 5, and to then-No. 11 Notre Dame on Dec. 4."It's very frustrating," Josephson said. "We've been so close with top teams. To just throw it away like that -- we played so hard for 38 minutes, and those last two minutes we kind of just threw it away."
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