Michigan St. halts Northern Iowa
Spartans hang despite not scoring in the final 1:53 of play
WICHITA, Kan. -- Big Ten player of the year Kalisha Keane scored 17 points, Taylor Alton added 14 and fourth-seeded Michigan State maintained its run of success in first-round NCAA tournament games, beating Northern Iowa 69-66 on Sunday.
Michigan State (27-5) is 9-1 in first-round NCAA games, with its only loss coming in 2003. The Spartans will play fifth-seeded Wisconsin-Green Bay in a second-round game Tuesday.
Northern Iowa (27-6) entered with a 19-game winning streak and hung close all the way, but Michigan State's size and length proved to be too much for the Panthers.
Michigan State didn't score in the final 1:53, and Northern Iowa's Erin Brocka missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds that would have tied the game.
Missouri Valley player of the year Jacqui Kalin scored 21 points for Northern Iowa.
Coming off its first outright regular-season Big Ten title, Michigan State figured to dominate against a Northern Iowa team that lost by 39 points to Nebraska in the first round of last season's tournament.
But while Michigan State never trailed, it also never got comfortable.
Northern Iowa pulled within 63-61 with 3:54 left when Rachel Madrigal hit two free throws, but Brittney Thomas and Cetera Washington answered with baskets for the Spartans. Lykendra Johnson's two free throws with 1:53 left made it 69-62, but the Spartans didn't score again.
Kalin's basket with 1:19 left made it 69-66, but Northern Iowa's Lizzie Boeck was called for charging with 48.8 seconds to go. Porsche Poole missed for Michigan State with 22 seconds remaining, and Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren called timeout with 8.8 seconds left, setting the stage for the final sequence. Kalin was heavily guarded and the ball ended up in Brocka's hands, but her shot didn't hit anything.
Johnson finished with 12 points and Washington had 11 for Michigan State. K.K. Armstrong scored 17 for Northern Iowa.
The Spartans led 26-14 with 9 minutes to go before halftime, but two 3-pointers by Kalin cut that margin to six. Michigan State led 37-28 at halftime behind 15 points from Keane, who was a non-factor in the second half.
The Spartans quickly built their lead to 46-32 on a 3-pointer by Thomas, but Northern Iowa rallied again and pulled within 55-51 on a 3-pointer by Kalin with 8:01 left. The Panthers had a chance to come even closer on their next possession, but Armstrong turned the ball over and Taylor Alton hit a 3-pointer for Michigan State at the other end, making it 58-51.
Over its previous six games, Michigan State had limited opponents to 7-of-64 shooting from 3-point range. Northern Iowa fared somewhat better, finishing 4 of 14.