LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Michigan State forward Aisha Jefferson spent portions of the first half of Saturday's opening round game of the women's NCAA tournament against Bowling Green sitting at the end of the bench with a trash can in front of her, nauseous from a pregame meal that didn't sit right.
It's just part of the deal for Jefferson, who has been battling stomach issues for much of her career."I got a lot of Mylanta," Jefferson said with a laugh.Besides, a little stomach issue wasn't going to keep the fifth-year senior from playing in her final NCAA tournament.
Hays: Jefferson helps MSU
At one point of the first half, Aisha Jefferson was huddled over a trash can. But despite her upset stomach, Jefferson put in one of her most complete games of the season to lift Michigan State past Bowling Green. Story
Jefferson overcame her shaky stomach to score 17 points and lead fifth-seeded Michigan State to a 72-62 victory over the 12th-seeded Falcons."That just speaks to the kind of player that she is," coach Suzy Merchant said.Jefferson led four Spartans in double figures as Michigan State (23-9) improved to 8-1 all-time in the first round of the NCAAs."I felt like we were in the way, shot all up in the trenches trying to take it home," Jefferson said.Jasmine Thomas and Brittney Thomas added 11 points each for the Spartans, who will face fourth-seeded Kentucky in the second round on Monday night.Two-time Mid-American conference player of the year Lauren Prochaska led the Falcons (27-7) with 19 points, but cooled off after a hot start. She made her first three shots but finished just 5 of 13 from the floor as Bowling Green struggled to contend with Michigan State's size advantage.The Spartans outscored the Falcons 28-4 in the paint and forced 16 turnovers to pull away over the final 10 minutes."I thought we did a much better job in the second half of getting in [Prochaska's] space and making it tough on her," Merchant said. "There were a couple of plays they run they couldn't even run to her because of the way we handled them."Michigan State, making its seventh tournament appearance in the last eight seasons, relied on its experience after the Falcons pulled within 51-48 on a jumper by Tara Breske with 11:32 remaining.Brittney Thomas followed with a 3-pointer and the Spartans held the Falcons to just one field goal over the next 8 minutes to build an 11-point lead they would never relinquish."They are a huge and physical team," Prochaska said. "We battled and competed as hard as we could but eventually it just wore us down."Bowling Green made 11 of 22 3-pointers, but went just 8 of 29 from the field otherwise."When we made them get to the lane and throw up kind of a crazy shot, that's when we opened it up a little bit," Merchant said.Michigan State shot just 41 percent from the floor, but outrebounded the Falcons 42-35 and had 12 second-chance points. Center Allyssa DeHaan, the leading shotblocker in women's Division I history, had eight points, 11 rebounds and one block in 20 minutes.DeHaan struggled with back spasms during the Big Ten Tournament and was tended to by trainers when she was on the bench, but the Spartans were easily the better team when she was on the floor.Tracy Pontius had 15 points -- on five 3-pointers -- for the Falcons as she and Prochaska put a scare into the Spartans during the first half. Bowling Green ripped off a 15-0 run after falling behind early and the teams battled to a 36-all tie at the break behind eight 3s.The Spartans, however, scored the first five points of the second half to take a lead they never gave up.