More than a week later, the season-ending loss to Maryland still eats at MSU women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant. The Terrapins sent the Spartans home from the NCAA Tournament with their most lopsided loss of the 2012-13 season March 25.
At her final press conference of the season Tuesday, Merchant said she has watched tape of the game a handful of times.
“Every loss leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but certainly the ones where you feel like you didn’t really even show up make it harder,” Merchant said. “It’s been harder for me this offseason already — maybe harder than most.”
Merchant said the coming months have a different dynamic than offseasons past because there’s something of a light at the end of the tunnel.
Next season, Merchant and company will welcome back sophomore center Madison Williams, freshmen guards Branndais Agee and Aerial Powers, as well as redshirt freshman forward Akyah Taylor, all of whom were injured this season.
Getting through the summer without any further physical setbacks is Merchant’s first priority, she said, adding the program is looking into creative ways to keep players fresh and hopefully prevent future injuries.
“If you’re asking did they overachieve? Yes,” Merchant said. “Each one of those kids found a way — and we weren’t great, you didn’t look at us on paper and go ‘Oh, I’m scared of that team,’ — but I think they just found ways to fight and compete. I am proud.”
The second issue Merchant wants to address is becoming a better offensive coach.
That means picking the brains of colleagues, talking offensive philosophies and spending more time watching film — a process Merchant said she already has begun.
MSU struggled to score at times this year, which sometimes limited the effectiveness of what was a statistically elite defense.
“I put some of that on me,” Merchant said. “Our players kind of kid around that our shootarounds are defense-arounds instead of shootarounds on game day, but I just feel like that’s where the edge is.”
It’s no surprise Merchant’s focus is on keeping players healthy after the Spartans underwent surgery eight times since last offseason.
She’s taking a cautious approach with Williams, the 6-foot-7 former McDonald’s All-American that suffered three torn anterior cruciate ligaments. Merchant is eyeing December or January as a potential return for Williams.
“I don’t think that will please her but … we’re not going to put her out there until we know there’s some stability there,” she said.
Powers hopes to begin jogging this week as she rehabilitates from an Achilles injury, while Agee has a few more months to recover from an ACL tear of her own, Merchant said.
Junior guard Camille Glymph, an Auburn transfer who sat out this season, will be out for three to six months after having knee surgery Friday. Taylor also could undergo surgery for an eye injury she suffered in the Big Ten Tournament, while Merchant revealed sophomore center Jasmine Hines was playing with a torn hamstring, which should be given around 10 weeks of rest.
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