Fri. Final: UW Women 56, Michigan St. 50
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Rae Lin D'Alie stole a big victory for Wisconsin's Badgers.
Tara Steinbauer scored 15 points and D'Alie, the smallest player on the court, had six steals and a game-high eight rebounds as Wisconsin overcame a 12-point deficit to beat second-seeded Michigan State 56-50 Friday in the Big Ten tourney quarterfinals.
"It was just the ball pressure on top," said the 5-foot-3 D'Alie, who also had 10 points. "It's so easy to pressure the ball when you know your teammates have your back."
The win sent the No. 7 seed Badgers (18-13) into the semifinals for the first time since 2002 on Saturday against defending champion Purdue, a 68-64 winner over Indiana.
"I do know that defense sometimes doesn't show up on the stat sheet other than steals and blocks. But we were down 21-9 and you're all wondering how we're going to score and that was certainly because of our post defense," Wisconsin coach Lisa Stone said of the big comeback. "I thought we played really well in the post and we had good ball pressure."
Michigan State (20-10) took the big lead in the first half, when 6-foot-9 junior Allyssa DeHaan set a Big Ten record of 387 career blocked shots. But the Badgers closed within 26-20 at halftime, took their first lead at 36-35 on two free throws by Alyssa Karel and built the margin to as many as nine points in the final minutes.
The Spartans came within 53-50 on a basket by DeHaan with just more than a minute to go before a pair of foul shots by Teah Gant and one free throw by D'Alie iced the win.
Lin Zastrow added 11 points for Wisconsin. Aisha Jefferson led Michigan State with 15.
"DeHaan is a great shot-blocker. You can't go through her," Zastrow said. "You have to go around her, and that's what we did."
DeHaan, a 6-foot-9 junior, had only nine points but blocked four shots, pushing her career total past the former Big Ten record of 384 set by Ohio State's Jessica Davenport in 2007.
"You can't back down from a team like that. We came out strong (in the second half) and responded to them," Zastrow said.
There were two early ties before a basket by Mia Johnson started a 10-1 run that appeared to put Michigan State, the Big Ten's top defensive team this season, in control.
Wisconsin managed only one free throw by Karel during a span of almost 6 minutes. The Spartans took their biggest lead at 21-9 on consecutive 3-pointers by Kalisha Keane and DeHaan, then held off a brief rally by the Badgers late in the opening period.
Wisconsin cut the lead to 23-20 on a 3-pointer by Jade Davis and another basket by Caitlin Gibson, but Lykendra Johnson hit a 3-pointer for Michigan State and DeHaan blocked two more shots in the final minute to preserve the 26-20 lead at the break.
Wisconsin started cutting into that lead at the start of the second half, pulled within one on a 3-pointer by Steinbauer and finally tied the game at 31 on another basket by Steinbauer with 14 minutes to go. The final lead for Michigan State was at 35-33 on a basket by Jefferson before Karel hit one free throw and then two more 17 seconds later that gave Wisconsin the lead for good.
"They did a great job pressuring us and we didn't handle it," Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said. "They rattled every guard we put out there. We didn't have anybody who could capitalize on the pressure in terms of taking the ball to the basket."
Lykendra Johnson had 12 points but made six of Michigan State's 25 turnovers. Jefferson had three steals but also had three turnovers and fouled out late in the game.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)