Friday, June 21, 2024

MSU works to prevent turnovers before meeting with Minnesota

MSU women’s basketball players, junior forward Aisha Jefferson and senior guard Mia Johnson, talk about preparing for Thursday’s game against Minnesota and how the team is readying for the postseason.

In its 54-51 loss to Wisconsin on Sunday, the MSU women’s basketball team looked frazzled and unable to handle the on-ball pressure from its opponent. This was the first time the group has been truly exposed since sophomore guard Brittney Thomas went out with a season-ending knee injury.

The Spartans committed 23 turnovers in the game, most of them unforced, and are looking to improve their ballhandling against a Minnesota team that pressured MSU relentlessly in the first meeting between the two teams, a 60-44 Golden Gophers win in Minneapolis. The Spartans committed 25 turnovers in that loss, one of two losses MSU has had in the last 12 games.

“I think we overthink sometimes and let the flow of the game get to us,” redshirt freshman forward Lykendra Johnson said. “I think our turnovers are good looks for the most part, they just don’t deliver at the time.”

Much of the pressure will be focused on the MSU backcourt, where Minnesota guards Emily Fox and Brittany McCoy will try to take advantage of the Spartans’ inexperienced ballhandlers. Sophomore Kalisha Keane, who has taken over the reins at starting point guard, said she was still adjusting to the position.

“It’s been a struggle obviously, because we’re still turning it over,” Keane said. “It’s a work in progress and I just got to keep working on it. I don’t think it’s a problem of knowing the offense, it’s more so just kind of being able to handle pressure and executing. They do a lot of trapping out of nowhere (and) that kind of stuff. We’re really trying to work on as a team attacking out of the trap, rather than being on our heels and turning the ball over.”

In the first meeting with the Gophers, Keane had five turnovers, a number that she has been working to lower, especially looking at a tricky Minnesota defense. Keane, who stands 6-foot-1 and previously played power forward, has experimented with backing down the court and using her size to shield the ball.

“I’m trying to work on the protecting the ball with my body, rather than opening up and having smaller guards take it away from me,” Keane said. “It’s still a work in progress.”

Held without a point in the last 7:30 of the first meeting, the Spartans have also been working on running their offense in the face of that press, looking to get more production when they’re under duress.

“We’re working on our offensive sets towards the end of practice to relieve some of that stress, like how we did in the Minnesota game,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to execute every play and pick up some momentum from that, because we’re still thinking about it. It hasn’t drifted from our memory.”

The Spartans are still thinking championship as well, even though they need to win both of their remaining games and hope for an Ohio State upset for this goal to be realized.

“We came a long way and we don’t want to feel like all of our dreams are untouchable right now,” junior forward Aisha Jefferson said. “You never know what could happen. We slipped up at a critical time. But we can’t worry about anybody else right now. We still are fighting for a firm spot in the NCAA and we still have the Big Ten Tournament. We’re still looking up, we’re not too disappointed, too down. We got to move on.”

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