It is on to round three of the WNIT Tournament for the MSU women’s basketball team after defeating Evansville Sunday, 73-53.
The freshman trio comprised of guard Brittney Thomas and forwards Kalisha Keane and Cetera Washington, lit up the hardwood with 6, 13 and 15 points, respectively.
“Kalisha Keane has tremendous presence on the floor as a freshman,” MSU head coach Suzy Merchant said.
“She’s figured out she could be a knockdown shooter, catcher and dribble-drive attack guy.”
Keane’s 6-foot-1 frame and power will make her hard to guard, and as the season goes on Merchant said Keane will only improve.
“I think the zone allows her to defensively get out and use her length and size. (Keane) is figuring it out,” she said.
“She took some early shots that were a little quick in the shot clock and got a little frustrated.
“I thought she did a heck of a job coming out with a little bit of edge and some focus defensively. She did some great things for us on both sides of the ball in the second half.”
After a first half consisting of 13 turnovers, numerous missed rebounds and a 45.8 shooting percentage, the Spartans came out in the second with only five turnovers and a 66.7 shooting percentage.
Merchant knew the defensive rebounds were not being taken care of by the team, and challenged her players to each get five rebounds against the Purple Aces.
Only Washington, Keane and sophomore center Allyssa DeHaan met the challenge they were sure to encounter.
“We didn’t show our defensive transition very well in the first half, but I think we fixed it in the second,” she said.
The team took a hit last week losing junior forward Aisha Jefferson to an ACL injury, but Lauren Aitch stepped up off the bench to fill the spot, contributing 12 points to the Spartan victory.
“I like giving the team a spark off the bench to help the offense,” Aitch said. “I’ve been struggling with layups lately so I’ve just been concentrating on my shot when I’m in there.”
Merchant noted that Aitch has done a fantastic job of getting herself in a position, physically, to play each game.
“There’s no question that (Aitch) has proven her worth,” Merchant said.
With four games now under their belt, the team chemistry is becoming noticeable through the passing flow and trust the players said they are gaining in each other.
“The team is really bonding. I definitely see the chemistry coming around as time goes on. We’re trusting each other all over the court,” Aitch said.
The Spartans tip-off next at Breslin Center either Wednesday or Thursday in the semifinals of the WNIT.