One game isn’t enough time to define a season, but for head coach Suzy Merchant and the MSU women’s basketball team, it certainly can show them things they can improve on before going on the road to take on Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. this Thursday.
“We’ve been watching on film for some timing issues, and there are things we can do better,” Merchant said. “I do think everybody is doing a really nice job sharing the basketball, which is leading to the balance that we had. On one level, I have a concern about who is our go-to person, but on another level, I feel like we’re doing a nice job. Maybe that’s where our offense is a little more efficient because we have more people handling it and getting shots for other people.”
Junior guard Klarissa Bell had a career-high 19 points in MSU’s 83-39 win against UT Arlington Sunday afternoon, and Merchant said she worked hard over the summer to solidify her spot in the starting lineup.
“The other piece of that was there was some competition coming in,” she said. “With (freshman guard) Aerial (Powers) and (freshman guard) Branndais (Agee), those are two of the top 50 recruits in the country that play the same spot, and they’re pretty talented kids, so she put a little extra effort in this summer. What I like is she’s still focused defensively and (is) doing all the right things defensively.”
With five players out due to injury or suspension, there isn’t much Merchant said she could do except move on and keep doing what she’s been doing during her five previous seasons in charge of the Spartans.
Sophomore center Madison Williams is out for the season with a torn ACL, Powers is done for the year with a torn Achilles tendon, Agee is expected to return this season after foot surgery and sophomore guard Kiana Johnson and redshirt freshman forward Akyah Taylor are suspended for the first nine games of the season after violating NCAA rules.
“I’m really pleased with how they’ve responded and the production they’ve had,” she said. “We’re young, too; before everybody got hurt, we had (10) freshmen and sophomores. My job is to keep them going and moving in the right direction, and I liked what I saw.”
Agee is coming off of foot surgery, and Merchant said she is making progress to come back in about a week.
“She doesn’t have to wear her boot anymore, and they made a special insert for her,” Merchant said. “She’s going to be allowed to do a little more shooting and a little more activity. On Friday of this week, she’s getting an X-ray that will tell us a little bit more. Hopefully we’ll be able to build in some minutes for her in the next week or so — certainly not a lot because she needs to get her lungs back.”