EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant was impressed when she saw the fans lined up outside the Breslin Center on Sunday for the Spartans' first women's home sellout.
An announced crowd of 14,797 said similar things after watching the No. 11 Spartans beat Michigan 69-56 to continue the best start in program history.
"I think the best way to describe it from the players' perspective and mine is it's overwhelming," Merchant said after her first-place Spartans (22-3, 10-2 Big Ten) beat their rival.
Kalisha Keane had 18 points and four steals in Michigan State's ninth straight win over Michigan and 17th in the past 18 meetings.
But she couldn't say enough about the support on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
"It really means a lot to me to be able to experience this," Keane said. "A lady came up to me after the game and said she never thought she'd see a day like this. She said they wore skirts when she played."
The Spartans were stronger and more athletic than the Wolverines (14-10, 7-5). They had a 38-25 rebounding edge.
"They move you when they want to move you," Michigan coach Kevin Borseth said. "They're very strong. That's their biggest attribute. Keane and (Lykendra) Johnson are a handful. They're bookends. Those two are going to play in the WNBA."
Johnson had 13 points and 12 rebounds in her eighth double-double this season. Her three-point play on one of six offensive rebounds ended the Wolverines' last threat in the second half.
"She has her niche," Merchant said of the league's top offensive rebounder. "She finds a way and is a very, very good defensive player. And she's a great rebounder. To move from a 3 position to the post, it's all about the team."
Taylor Alton was just as important with a career-high 16 points, including 4-for-7 shooting from long range. Her 3 from the corner with a 54-46 lead was key.
"Today was incredible, absolutely electrifying," Alton said. "To see the upper bowl fill up the way it did 30 minutes before the game gave me chills. We didn't play our best game today. But it's a day I'll never forget."
Michigan was led by Courtney Boylan and Jenny Ryan, who each had 11 points. But the team's top 3-point threat, Carmen Reynolds, was held without a basket.
"I just thought our offense was awful," Borseth said, despite the fact that the Wolverines were 8 for 16 on 3-pointers.
"I don't know why everyone thinks we just want to shoot 3s. We're trying to get the ball close to the basket. That's what we've been trying to do for 30 years."
The Spartans have been trying to concentrate on the challenge at hand and not look at the league standings, where they have a half-game lead on Penn State and a one-game edge on Wisconsin.
"We don't want to look ahead, but when you do step back and look at what we've done with 22 wins already, it's mind-blowing," Alton said. "With one fewer loss in the Big Ten, it's all in our control. And it helps with great days like this."
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