Monday, September 20, 2021

Merchant still excited from Sunday

February 15, 2011
Headcoach Suzy Merchant thanks the first ever sold out crowd after her team defeated Michigan Sunday afternoon at Breslin Center. The Spartans took down the Wolverines 69-56. Matt Hallowell/The State News
Headcoach Suzy Merchant thanks the first ever sold out crowd after her team defeated Michigan Sunday afternoon at Breslin Center. The Spartans took down the Wolverines 69-56. Matt Hallowell/The State News —
Photo by Matt Hallowell | and Matt Hallowell The State News

One day after a game where No. 11 MSU women’s basketball team sold out Breslin Center for the first time in women’s basketball history, MSU head coach Suzy Merchant took the podium for her weekly Monday morning press conference, all smiles.

Her team not only hosted a record crowd of 14,797, but the Spartans played on national television, participated in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s Pink Zone campaign for breast cancer awareness and came away with a 69-56 victory against Michigan, the team’s greatest rival.

Merchant only had one way to sum up the experience.

“It was kind of a ‘wow’ thing,” she said. “It just really was. I heard they were scalping tickets too and it was just, I mean, that was kind of cool. I don’t know if I can say that or not, but it was kind of cool. It was a big day for a lot of people.”

The day likely will be remembered by everyone who made the historic event happen, but the full effects won’t be felt until future years, when the Spartans really could benefit from the moment.
There were plenty of recruits who were present at the game and Merchant couldn’t bring herself to leave the arena until 8 p.m. trying to talk to each one of them, she said.

The day didn’t come as a complete shock to everyone however. For the past six years, the Spartans have held one of the top-15 fan bases in the country, averaging 6,382 fans per game. They are second in the Big Ten only to Purdue and ninth in the nation this season.

“This was a vision for a long time,” she said. “We’ve had really different crowds in a lot of different ways in a lot of years, but none where they could actually pack the house and sell it out. … It (was) just a really great experience.”

Making an impact
Usually it’s the heartbreaking losses or the nights before a big game that prevents a team from getting its beauty rest, not blowout victories that will make a coach or player lose sleep. However, Merchant said she found herself awake in the late hours considering the impact Sunday’s game made for women’s basketball and on the community.

She said she believes the program certainly has come a long way through the year and other coaches agree, including Karen Langeland, who served as MSU’s head coach for 24 years and compiled a 357-278 record.

Merchant spoke of an e-mail she received from Langeland.

“(Langeland) said that she never thought she’d see the day when women’s basketball was ever sold out,” Merchant said.

“You look at that from a program perspective, you know, I think that’s a pretty neat thing for people who have worn the uniform before and who have kind of built this place to a point it could get there.”

Moving on
Following the highly emotional event, many are concerned the team’s success might get to the players’ heads and if they will be able to regroup in time for a showdown with Northwestern on Thursday.

“I think they know you can never get ahead of yourself and you’re only as good as your next one,” she said.

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