Following a stretch of games when only one or two players would make an impact, the MSU women’s basketball team got a total team effort this past weekend against Minnesota and Purdue.
A three-game losing skid turned into a two-game winning streak courtesy of an 18-point win against Purdue and a nine-point win at Minnesota.
“The Minnesota win was one that I felt like every four-minute segment it was like somebody else stepped up,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “It wasn’t just one kid the entire game. Even half to half, a different kid stepped up. One four minutes, I thought (junior forward Cetera Washington) played spectacular, then here comes (junior guard Brittney Thomas), then (junior forward Kalisha Keane) got it going. Obviously (senior center Lauren Aitch) was big for us, too. I thought it was a solid team win.”
Four players scored in double digits in each game, with Thomas being the only player in double digits in both. Against Minnesota, it was Keane, Aitch and sophomore forward Lykendra Johnson. Against Purdue, it was senior center Allyssa DeHaan, sophomore guard Porschè Poole and senior forward Aisha Jefferson joining Thomas.
More importantly, pushing the pace on offense seemingly has ended the team’s offensive and second-half slumps. MSU shot 50 percent against Purdue (52 percent in the second half) and 48.2 percent against Minnesota (57.7 percent in the second half).
After the Spartans took a 10-point lead Sunday, Minnesota cut it to six, but MSU, behind Aitch, quickly fired back to put the game away.
“They cut it to six and we came down and answered,” Merchant said.
“If we hadn’t answered, I think the tide could’ve turned. And in the past, we haven’t answered at that point. I thought that was a critical growth period for our team. It showed some maturity, it showed some leadership that we were going to make the most out of that possession, make sure we didn’t come up with an empty possession. … We had to answer that quick hit run they had.”
Merchant changed her starting lineup against the Golden Gophers, going with freshman guard Jasmine Thomas, Brittney Thomas, Jefferson, Johnson and DeHaan.
Thomas replaced Washington and Jefferson replaced Keane.
“I thought they earned it,” Merchant said.
“I thought (Jefferson) played really well against Purdue, and she earned it, and we have to have Jasmine Thomas on the floor. She’s fast, she changes the pace of the game, she gets us open court looks and she can create her own shot, which is something other guards can’t do. I think it makes sense for us.”
Still, the switch did not deter Keane or Washington. Keane finished with 16 points, while Washington had four assists and a big bucket late to extend MSU’s burgeoning lead.
With almost everybody contributing, Merchant played nine players at least 11 minutes and eight players at least 18 minutes.
“I thought we had good flow, good rotation,” Merchant said.
With her struggles Sunday (four points and four rebounds in 19 minutes), there have been questions whether DeHaan is healthy.
“Yeah, (she’s healthy),” Merchant said.
“We try to get her the ball, but I think also our transition game has picked up … It’s hard to get her the touches that she needed in that game and I think that was part of her problem.”