Women’s basketball falls to MSU in exhibition

Dani Crandall jumps through Spartan defense to reach the basket

Eric Coulter

Dani Crandall jumps through Spartan defense to reach the basket

Greg Monahan

East Lansing, Mich. – The Grand Valley State University women’s basketball team tipped off its season with an exhibition Sunday, dropping a 68-43 decision to Michigan State University in front of 4,689 spectators at the Breslin Center.

The Division II Lakers fell into a hole early against Division I Michigan State. GVSU trailed 45-19 at halftime before turning in a solid second half, outscoring the Spartans 24-23 during the final 20 minutes.

“We prepped today like we were playing a GLIAC opponent in the sense that it was really about Grand Valley,” said GVSU head coach Janel Burgess. “It was about what we’re going to do, how we’re going to play defense, how we’re going to play offense, and how we’re going to get better as a unit.”

GVSU sophomore guard Briauna Taylor led both teams in scoring with 21 points, scoring the Lakers’ first five points to open the game and draining five three pointers on nine attempts.

“If I got an open shot I was going to take it and hopefully they would fall,” said Taylor. “I thank my teammates for finding me for those open shots and for dribbling and penetrating just so I can get an open look.”

The Spartans shot 74 percent from the field in the first half but stumbled in the second half by shooting just 24 percent. The Lakers shot 36.4 percent for the game, were outscored 32-14 in the paint and turned the ball over 23 times.

Burgess said she would not look too far into the disparate statistics considering GVSU was going up against a nationally-ranked Division I team. The Spartans are No. 25 in the Associated Press preseason poll and No. 24 in the USA Today/ESPN preseason poll.

“Obviously we’re playing the No. 24 team in the nation, so for sure it’s going to be much different than what we’ll see starting on Friday,” she said. “I thought our kids were prepared and I thought we handled (Michigan State) pretty decently. We had 23 turnovers, which obviously you want to cut down a bit, but our kids worked hard for the last three days preparing for the game.”

Already a very young team, the Lakers were hit by the injury bug when senior forward Kara Crawford went down a week ago with a torn ACL. That left guard Liz Van Tiflin as the only healthy senior on the GVSU roster, and put her into a leadership role she said she was ready for coming into the game.

“I knew that being the only senior leader I needed to step it up,” she said. “What we’re really trying to focus on this year is playing as a family. If I can be the head of that family when I’m on the court and fire everyone up because that’s what I bring to the team, then I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”

With nearly 5,000 fans in the stands, Van Tiflin said the Lakers enjoyed the rare chance to play in front of such a large crowd.

“I think (playing at Breslin) sets the tone for our season and it’s a great opportunity,” she said. “We’re very thankful that we can come into the Breslin Center and play. It’s kind of a little added excitement and a little bonus that kind of kicks our season off and gets us ready to go for Friday’s game.”

Friday will be the regular season opener for GVSU, as they travel to Urbana University (Ohio) for a 7 p.m. tip-off against the Blue Knights. The team’s home opener will come against St. Joseph’s University on Nov. 20 at 1 p.m.

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