Saturday, July 11, 2020

Spartans seeing contribution from bench players

MSU sophomore forward Kalisha Keane and Wisconsin forward Tara Steinbauer compete for a rebound in Sunday’s game at Breslin Center.

Photo by Sean Cook | The State News

The best offense for the MSU women’s basketball team may be sitting on the bench.

The MSU reserves have outscored its opponents’ 188-108 in conference play and is a big reason for the current five-game winning streak.

“If you can go deep with a team, it speaks volumes too; if people get into foul trouble or if someone’s having an off night, you can still have offensive production and defensive efficiency,” sophomore forward Kalisha Keane said.

The contribution from the bench has been helped by a recent change in the starting lineup, starting freshmen forward Lykendra Johnson and forward Courtney Schiffauer and putting some more experienced scorers on the sideline.

The switch also gives the team an added spark off the bench.

“We certainly feel like we have the capability to extend our bench and get some good production,” head coach Suzy Merchant said.

“Especially teams that are playing five, six kids, if we can get out and run a little bit, maybe we don’t beat you in the first 30, but we’ll get you in the last 10. I do believe that when you look at it over time, maybe in the beginning it doesn’t show, but towards the end, when teams start to break down and wear down a little bit and the grind of the season, then it comes to the forefront.”

Keane is averaging 10 points per game in the Spartans’ five-game winning streak. MSU is also getting heavy production from junior Lauren Aitch, sophomore Cetera Washington, senior Mia Johnson and freshman Porsché Poole.

“The other thing we’ve added with Kal is she’s coming off the bench, but she’s coming off the bench in a different position,” Merchant said.

Keane was playing small forward earlier in the year and has switched back to her more natural position of power forward.

“The position that she played last year really changes our offensive abilities,” Merchant said. “She can extend as a four, a face up four man, and I really like that.”

The Spartans backups have been outscored only in one game this year — a 78-72 loss to Notre Dame — which is an advantage in a tough Big Ten.

“If you come off the bench, you want to kind of create a certain momentum for your team,” Keane said. “We’re not going to have tired legs, we’re going to keep going in and out.”

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