Following the MSU women’s basketball team’s 69-56 win over Michigan on Sunday afternoon at Breslin Center, U-M head coach Kevin Borseth said there was one glaring difference between the two teams.
“We could not contend with their strength,” Borseth said. “They move you where they want to when they want.”
Borseth and forward Rachel Sheffer, who described MSU players as “probably the strongest girls in the Big Ten,” both said the Spartans (22-3 overall, 10-2 Big Ten) were able keep the Wolverines (14-10, 7-5) out of the paint all day, forcing the U-M bigs to play farther away from the basket.
However, when Spartans head coach Suzy Merchant addressed the media shortly after Borseth and his players, she said it wasn’t so much MSU’s strength as it was her players’ ability to cover ground and get around people.
“That’s that athleticism,” Merchant said.
“I don’t think we’re frail or anything like that, but I don’t think we’re a powerhouse. I just think that athleticism is what (Borseth) is referring to.”
Regardless of what the difference maker was, the Spartans dominated the Wolverines inside, outrebounding them, 38-25, while also outscoring them in the paint, 24-16.
In the first half, MSU gave up an uncharacteristic five offensive rebounds. But in the second half, the Spartans took it to U-M on the boards, bringing down nine offensive rebounds and holding the Wolverines to just three.
“I thought they did a pretty good job of trying to take that out in the first half,” senior forward Kalisha Keane said. “Coach got on us about our rebounding effort in the locker room, and that’s when it changed.”
Keane brought down four rebounds but created a mismatch problem for U-M, resulting in her scoring a game-high 18 points.
Combine that with another double-double (13 points and 12 rebounds) for junior Lykendra Johnson, and Borseth said his team was no match for MSU’s forwards.
“Keane and Johnson are a handful,” Borseth said. “They are just so strong and so powerful. Those are two good kids that are going to play in the WNBA and be very successful.”
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