Senior forward Cetera Washington and senior guard Brittney Thomas were ready to play early in their final season-opener Saturday against IPFW.
The seniors did a little bit of everything as the No. 25 MSU women’s basketball team (1-0) opened on a 15-2 run and didn’t look back en route to a 90-62 win against IPFW (0-1).
During the run, Thomas capitalized on the space the IPFW defense was giving her and drove to the hoop, scoring all of her six points.
“I was feeling good in warm-ups and I didn’t want to force anything, but I wanted to take (open shots) when its there,” Thomas said. “Because that makes players guard me, which will open up other people as well.”
Her early baskets led to some of Washington’s success, who chipped in five points and two rebounds during the run as well.
“We knew that we could take advantage of their guards big time and my players did a great job of finding me, and (I did a good job of) just letting the game come to me and not forcing anything,” Washington said.
With the Spartans up 19-5 with 13:12 left to play in the first half, the Spartans’ biggest question mark — front court depth — was tested.
When junior forward Lykendra Johnson picked up her second foul, redshirt freshman Kelsey Smith was left to pick up Johnson’s minutes, as the junior was forced to sit most of the half.
Smith rose to the occasion, coming off the bench and scoring four points and grabbing five rebounds in the first half.
“I think I did a pretty good job (filling in),” Smith said. “Obviously there (are) things I wish I would’ve done better and parts I want to learn. I think that one of my biggest roles is going to be defense and rebounding. I think I did that in different phases of the game, but I want to be even more solid in that aspect.”
Head coach Suzy Merchant said she liked the way Smith responded in her first game after being redshirted the previous year.
“She did a lot of nice things,” Merchant said. “She sat out last year and had some growth and some opportunity to kind of see the game through different eyes. I think there’s things she needs to improve on, but she needed to get some minutes and some quality minutes to figure out what this is all about.”
Senior forward Kalisha Keane blocked a shot at the end of the half as the Spartans went to the locker room with a 51-21 lead.
When the teams came back out, the ball continued to bounce MSU’s way. Johnson was back on the court and drained a shot from behind the arc to put the Spartans ahead by 33.
Johnson, however, picked up a third foul with 16:09 left to play and returned to the bench.
Attempting to play more physical with the loss of Johnson, Smith and freshman guard Annalise Pickrel fouled out of the game in the closing minutes.
“There’s no question that we have to do a good job of being able to defend without fouling and that was a major disappointment for me tonight,” Merchant said
The head coach also said forwards getting into foul trouble could be a weakness for the team.
“If we get in foul trouble, it better not be in the post position,” she said.
Merchant also said she wasn’t happy with the way her team handled the ball, accumulating 22 turnovers.
However, the Spartans had no trouble on the scoring end, with five players finishing with double-digit point totals.
Junior guard Porsche Poole led all scorers with 12 points, while Keane and Jasmine Thomas both added 10. Johnson’s three triples helped her to reach the double-digit point mark.
Washington was great all-around, recording 11 points and seven boards.
“Our goal is to have a balanced attack,” Merchant said. “We have more depth at the guard position than we do at the post, but I do like some of the things we can do in terms of (offense), with different people creating shots for other people.”
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