Emergence of Taya Reimer propels MSU women's basketball to victory
It’s been a wild ride for graduate student forward Taya Reimer.
The Fishers, Ind. native transferred to MSU women’s basketball (16-7, 6-4 Big Ten) before the season started, leaving a nationally competitive University of Notre Dame.
She found early success with the Spartans — in three of her first four games, she coolly scored in double figures to aid MSU to a 4-0 start.
After that, though, the scoring stalled for the former McDonald’s All-American. In the following 18 games, she reached the double figure plateau just five times. Against her former team on Dec. 20, Reimer recorded a meager 16 minutes, scuffling her way to a 2-for-5 performance for four points.
Regardless of the past, a new script was written once the Spartans trotted out to begin the third quarter in their win over the Indiana Hoosiers (15-7, 5-4 Big Ten). The game plan shifted and so did Reimer, her efforts culminating in a momentum-swinging, 11-point quarter.
“I think that (at the beginning of the third) I was just trying to be really aggressive offensively,” Reimer said. “I think we kind of all were struggling to score in the first half. I was just trying to be aggressive and give us some energy in that way.”
For the first time since Nov. 18, Reimer scored in double figures in back-to-back games. Not since scoring 12 then 13 points against Southern University and Western Michigan University, respectively, has she displayed her scoring touch consecutively.
During the drought, Big Ten play began for the Spartans, head coach Suzy Merchant took a medical leave of absence and Reimer herself garnered experience through a new team.
As MSU downed the Hoosiers, Reimer’s fingerprints were firmly smudged on the final product. Following the stale opening half — one where the Spartans shot 31 percent from the floor — interim head coach Amaka Agugua said there was an added emphasis to the paint. Unsurprisingly, the game plan involved Reimer and her presence down low, attempting to disrupt the Hoosier rhythm.
“We had a game plan to get the ball inside,” Agugua said. “We were settling for a lot of jumpers. Indiana’s game plan was clearly to clog the paint so they were trying to sit off people. We just really wanted to get our bigs involved, get our guards playing downhill, we got to get some paint points.”
While the Spartans sift through the remaining Big Ten schedule, they have found a starting lineup maximizing the available talent. MSU sits at an efficient 8-4 when it starts Reimer, freshman guard Taryn McCutcheon, senior guard Tori Jankoska, redshirt-senior guard Branndais Agee and redshirt-freshman forward Victoria “Coco” Gaines together.
The chemistry of the starting lineup has proved its productivity to the team, as the Spartans improved to 10-0 when three or more players score in double figures. Running the show as the starting point guard of the group, McCutcheon said the team looks to get Reimer the ball when she starts to heat up.
“When (Reimer) starts scoring the ball, we all have confidence in her,” McCutcheon said. “We’ll start running plays for her, let her do work, whatever she can do. That spreads to the whole team, just seeing her confidence, seeing everybody else gain a little more confidence and start playing with it, play with more energy.”
Jankoska, the Spartans’ leading scorer and only player to average in the double digits, said she understood that keeping Reimer’s confidence high was key to the team’s success.
“In the last couple of games, (Reimer) has been playing great for us,” Jankoska said. “We've just got to keep her confidence up, keep her doing the things she does best. Pull-up (jumpers), she drives and gets to the basket and that’s really her game and she’s been doing it well.”
MSU will take a one week hiatus before returning to the court on the road against Iowa. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 9 and the game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.