EAST LANSING, Mich. — Lexi Gussert was on a mission from the moment she woke up, focusing on helping Michigan State get revenge.
Gussert scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half to help the Spartans build a double-digit lead and they held on to beat No. 21 Michigan 66-61 on Sunday.
The last time they played, the Wolverines won 74-48.
“That was the first thing I thought about when I woke up,” Gussert said.
The Spartans (15-11, 5-8 Big Ten) had lost six straight, reeling without one of their best players and a key reserve. During the lost to Michigan, they were also without Gussert and Taryn McCutcheon.
Even though Michigan State still isn’t at full strength, it bounced back with its fifth win in six games against the Wolverines.
“They’ve had so much adversity,” coach Suzy Merchant said. “Under the circumstances, I’m really proud of them.”
The Wolverines (20-7, 9-5) have lost three of four, falling out of contention to win a Big Ten title.
Michigan scored the first seven points of the game and Michigan State responded with a 21-4 run to close the pivotal quarter.
“They jumped on us,” coach Kim Barnes Arico said. “We were never really able to recover.”
The Spartans went into the fourth quarter with a 55-45 lead after two evenly matched quarters.
Katelynn Flaherty’s 3-pointer pulled the Wolverines within 64-61 with 1:26 left. Michigan missed chances to get closer in the final minute because of a shot-clock violation and an ill-advised foul.
Victoria Gaines drew a whistle with three seconds left on the shot clock — and 9.4 seconds remaining in the game — and sealed the victory with two free throws for the Spartans, who didn’t make a field goal for the last 6:15 of the game.
“That really hurt,” Barnes Arico said. “We were with a lot of younger kids because Hailey (Brown) went down. For some kids, it was the first time they’ve been in those situations.”
McCutcheon had eight points, five assists and three steals while chasing Flaherty around the court.
Flaherty, the school’s all-time leading scorer, had 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
“That was the probably the best I’ve seen anybody (defend Flaherty),” Merchant said.
Hallie Thome scored 19 on 5-of-12 shooting for the Wolverines and Brown was limited to 23 minutes because of what appeared to be a knee injury.
Michigan: The game slipped away from the Wolverines in the first quarter because of turnovers. Michigan gave it up eight times in the first quarter and finished with 23 turnovers. The Wolverines averaged 21.5 turnovers in their previous two losses. In the rout over Michigan State at home, they lost the ball just 11 times.
“That’s really been the problem,” Barnes Arico acknowledged. “We work on it every day. Coming into this year, we knew that could be a problem for us because we weren’t returning a point guard.”
Michigan State: Winning for the first time without guard Shay Colley should boost the team’s confidence. The Spartans have been without Colley, who averages a team-high 11.5 points in the Big Ten, for seven games and key reserve Mardrekia Cook for two months because of knee injuries.
“This was a huge game for us, coming off a six-game losing streak and a bad loss to them last time,” Gussert said. “It will do a lot to raise our confidence for the last few games before the Big Ten tournament.”
Michigan: Plays at Minnesota on Wednesday night.
Michigan State: Hosts Nebraska on Wednesday night.