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No. 2 Notre Dame takes fight to Spartans in rout

Breslin Center was packed for Michigan States hosting of No. 2 Notre Dame- almost 8,000 fans in attendance for tonight’s match up.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

East Lansing, MI — Notre Dame did not let the commotion of former Fighting Irish teammate, and current Michigan State player Taya Reimer, distract them from their 11th victory of the season -- breaking Michigan State’s perfect December record.

The Spartans concluded their non-conference schedule with No. 2 Notre Dame Tuesday night in Breslin Center, losing 79-61.

“It’s great to be able to win on the road with a good crowd,” said head coach for Notre Dame Muffet McGraw. “It’s great to see this large of a crowd for women’s basketball.”

The Breslin Center packed close to 8,000 fans Tuesday night. It was clear to see the large amount of Notre Dame fans who made the trip in the neon green t-shirts.

“We are just young and new and haven’t had the time to put things together yet,” said Spartans’ head coach Suzy Merchant. “We need to continue to challenge ourselves and prepare to beat the best, and if the best is Notre Dame, I am glad with some of the things I saw tonight. We will use these looking forward to our Big Ten matchups in January.”

With the quick and spread offense, the Fighting Irish jumped out on the Spartans 5-0 in the first quarter. Sophomore Marina Mabrey led Notre Dame with nine points in the period.

Senior guard Tori Jankoska had a huge momentum play for Michigan State, after she drained a three-pointer while being fouled by Notre Dame’s Lindsay Allen. Jankoska stepped to the line confidently and knocked down her free-throw to add four points for her team. The Spartans trailed, 25-17 at the end of the first period.

“Tori was very focused on her offensive end versus her defensive end tonight,” said Merchant. “She took a few shots too early, and she is a better defender then what she showed tonight.”

Although Michigan State had the first two points to start the second quarter, the Irish responded by earning yet another five before the Spartans scored again.

Brianna Turner turned the heat on for the Fighting Irish, as she contributed 11 points, tying the team’s leading scorer Mabrey.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, in the final seconds of the period, they turned the ball over which led to an easy basket for Michigan State. With the add points, the Spartans found themselves now only trailing by eight points to the Fighting Irish, 41-33.

Notre Dame jumped out in the third quarter, outscoring Michigan State 21-17. Kathryn Westbeld led the Irish with 11 rebounds and contributed 12 points.

“I thought one of the best parts of the game was when [Lindsay] Allen came out in the last five minutes of the third quarter,” said McGraw. “We have struggled without her in the past, and I think tonight I was very pleased with Marina and Mychal.”

Notre Dame guard Mychal Johnson gave her team five assists along with three points in her 28 minutes of play.

The fourth period was a fight for the Spartans, but the Fighting Irish was not going out without a bang. Once again, Michigan State was outscored 17-11, finishing the game down, 79-61. A similar score to the two teams last meeting where Notre Dame took the win 71-63.

Turner and Mabrey tied as the leading scorers for Notre Dame, with 19 points apiece; Turner also pulled down seven rebounds. Other contributors included Westbeld (12), Arike Ogunbowale (11).

As for Reimer, she struggled against her former team as her aggression found her in foul trouble. In her 16 minutes of play, she finished just a foul shy of being eliminated from the game and contributed only four points.

“I think it was partial emotion for Reimer,” said Merchant. “I had a feeling that this was going to happen. Sometimes we might get too hyped up for those kind of games, but we just couldn’t make a few plays to give us that victory.”

To end the preseason, the unranked Spartans fall to 10-3, while Notre Dame increases their wins to 11-1. The Fighting Irish will conclude 2016 with two road games against Chattanooga and North Carolina State.