Monday, September 20, 2021

Merchant strives to keep players focused

January 11, 2012
Redshirt senior forward Lykendra Johnson throws up her arms while defending Michigan forward Sam Arnold Wednesday night at Breslin Center. Johnson snagged five rebounds for the Spartans during the 60-55 victory over the Wolverines. Matt Hallowell/The State News
Redshirt senior forward Lykendra Johnson throws up her arms while defending Michigan forward Sam Arnold Wednesday night at Breslin Center. Johnson snagged five rebounds for the Spartans during the 60-55 victory over the Wolverines. Matt Hallowell/The State News —
Photo by Matt Hallowell | and Matt Hallowell The State News

“No rest for the weary — that’s for sure.”

That’s how MSU women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant led off her weekly press conference this week as the Spartans (11-5 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) try to stay undefeated in conference with back-to-back home games to finish out the week.

MSU will play Indiana (5-12, 0-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. and Ohio State (15-1, 2-1) on Sunday (4 p.m., ESPN2).

Senior guard Taylor Alton is coming off a career-high 20-point performance against Penn State and said the Spartans are starting to find a groove.

“We’re feeling good; we’re feeling confident,” she said. “We’re growing, we’re learning, we’re having fun playing together, so that for us is going to be key for us as we go down the stretch in this Big Ten season.”

This will be the second time MSU has played Indiana after beating the Hoosiers on the road, 63-49, to open the conference season less than two weeks ago.

Because the teams played so recently, Alton said the Spartans will have a few new wrinkles defensively to keep Indiana off guard.

Although the final score looks one-sided, the game was close, and after getting outrebounded in the first matchup, senior forward Lykendra Johnson said there are several things MSU will need to do better to sweep the season series.

“(We need to keep) attacking, getting north and south to the rim, not getting comfortable shooting jump shots and rebounding the basketball,” she said. “A couple shots here (and there) could have changed the game.”

With Indiana off to a slow start and the Ohio State game looming three days later, Johnson said it will be important not to get caught looking ahead.

Because MSU has a young team, Merchant said it will be important for her to remind her players to remain focused on Indiana.

Sunday’s game against Ohio State could prove pivotal in the Big Ten title race, as it’s the only time the two teams meet this season.

“I’m going to challenge them, there’s no question about that, and I think that’s something that needs to be talked about,” Merchant said. “We played well, and we’ve played well on the road, and we’re 3-0, but that doesn’t mean anything on Thursday night.”

As an upperclassmen, junior forward Courtney Schiffauer said Merchant’s message is one she has taken to heart and is reminding the young players to prepare for Thursday.

“You can’t look ahead,” she said. “Every Big Ten game is a big game no matter who you’re playing, no matter what their record is. (Younger players) definitely have to learn how to take it game-by-game because anyone can beat you at any time.”

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