East Lansing, Mich. (AP) — By the time Kalisha Keane caught the ball in the corner, she had only one option: shoot.
That was Michigan State’s plan all along.
Keane’s 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining gave the ninth-ranked Spartans a 63-60 win against 16th-ranked Iowa on Thursday night. Michigan State had blown an eight-point lead in the span of about a minute, but the Spartans executed their final play perfectly, setting up their leading scorer for the winning shot.
“Sitting in the timeout, I said, ‘It’s going to come to me, I’ve got to knock it down,’ ” Keane said.
Iowa (14-4, 2-3 Big Ten) had scored eight straight points to tie the game at 60 on a 3-pointer by Kamille Wahlin with 13.3
seconds to play, but the Spartans still had a chance to avoid overtime. Their final play was slow to develop, but Keane finally came off a screen by Lykendra Johnson, took a pass from Brittney Thomas and made a shot from in front of the Michigan State bench to give the Spartans their 14th straight victory.
Coach Suzy Merchant said that’s how it was drawn up.
“She was deeper than what I anticipated her being in the corner,” Merchant said. “I didn’t want her to have the ball in her hands and get a situation where they were going to call a charge, or where she had to create with the ball. As good as she is at that, I just felt like we needed to get her open for a standup shot.”
Michigan State (16-1, 4-0) is off to the program’s best start and hasn’t lost since a 26-point defeat against Baylor in November.
Keane finished with 16 points.
Jaime Printy scored 23 points for Iowa but was held to five in the second half.
“They played me a little tighter, but that happens,” Printy said. “We were still able to work the ball to some other people.”
The Spartans led 50-48 before going on a 7-0 run that appeared decisive at the time. Keane capped the run with a shot from near the top of the key that put Michigan State ahead by nine.
Iowa cut the deficit to five and had the ball, but Morgan Johnson traveled with 2:25 to play, and Lykendra Johnson’s three-point play at the other end made it 60-52.
Kelly Krei made a 3-pointer for the Hawkeyes, and Kachine Alexander added two free throws with 30.9 seconds to play to pull Iowa within three.
Thomas then missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving the Hawkeyes a chance to tie, and Wahlin banked in a 3-pointer from a severe angle on the left wing.
Wahlin finished with 17 points. Lykendra Johnson had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Spartans — all of her rebounds coming the second half after she picked up two fouls in the first.
Michigan State adjusted its defense inside to provide less space for Printy on the perimeter. That left Lykendra Johnson with a big challenge trying to contain the 6-foot-5 Morgan Johnson.
“I’ve been trying to stay out of foul trouble, but in the second half, coach said, ‘Stay behind her and make her prove herself,’ ” Lykendra Johnson said.
Morgan Johnson finished with only six points, and Printy went scoreless for the last 15 minutes.
Both teams shot 40 percent from the field, but Michigan State had 17 more attempts. The Spartans finished with 15 offensive rebounds and forced 17 turnovers.
“Any time you’re going to give somebody 17 extra shots, it’s pretty hard to win a game,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. “It’s hard to believe that it was that close.”
Printy scored 18 points during a first half of runs. The Spartans scored 10 straight points to lead 19-12 before Iowa went on a 14-2 run. Michigan State answered that with nine points in a row and led 30-28 at halftime.
Michigan State led 42-36 in the second half, but Wahlin finally provided some help for Printy. She scored Iowa’s next eight points, including a desperation 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock and another 3-pointer that tied the game at 44.