Injuries and rotation changes have caused rough patches during the women’s basketball season. But in the midst of uncertainty, one thing has remained consistently positive for the Spartans — the team’s freshmen guards.
The trio of redshirt freshman Aerial Powers, redshirt freshman Branndais Agee and freshman guard Tori Jankoska has emerged as a potent scoring punch for an offense that is tallying 76.9 points per game, fourth-highest in the conference.
Combined, the three account for roughly 41 percent of the Spartan offense, scoring a combined 31.3 points per game on 46 percent shooting.
“They’re scorers by nature,” head coach Suzy Merchant said after MSU’s 96-46 home defeat of Colgate last Sunday. “They scored a lot of different ways, Aerial rebounds, (and drives the lane), Branndais did a nice job on the boards and getting to the rim. They stick … into what they do.”
Powers and Jankoska in particular have been key cogs in the lineup.
A starter since opening night, Powers has earned two Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors this season.
She leads the team in scoring and rebounding and has knocked down nearly half of her shots this year.
Jankoska, a spark plug off the bench, ended a shooting slump against Colgate last Sunday with a career-high 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting, knocking down a career-best six threes.
She also had four assists and two blocks.
Merchant discussed how the freshmen will handle the transition from the non-conference season to Big Ten season last Sunday. She mentioned that it will take strong play from not only the young players, but from the vets as well in order for MSU to continue the recent run of balanced wins.
That goal got off to a satisfactory start last Saturday against Minnesota.
Powers and Jankoska were amongst five players to reach double figures in the 81-56 rout.
“It’s nice when the freshmen are on, it’s nice when the vets are on too,” Merchant said. “It’s a different time of year. Big Ten season requires vets to really (kind of) carry and be mentally tough and physically tough.”
Although they did not see court time as redshirts, Powers and Agee witnessed last year’s Big Ten season that saw a 10-6 conference record.
With much of the season still to play, the team will need contributions from both the vets and the freshmen.
“The thing we’ll have to work (on)2 is being mentally tough when playing Big Ten,” Powers said. “Some of these past games, we’ve been blowing people out. These next few games, we’ll have to focus on staying aggressive.”