After a stunning 81-76 loss to IPFW on Sunday, the MSU women’s basketball team will be back in action 7 p.m. Wednesday at Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Spartans (5-2 overall) lacked strong defense and couldn’t defend the Mastodons’ strong outside shot. IPFW shot 56.5 percent (13-23) from beyond the 3-point line.
The loss comes at a poor time, with MSU facing two tough ACC teams on the road in its next two games — Florida State (6-1) and Virginia Tech (6-1).
Like MSU, Florida State is coming off a close game as well, but the Seminoles were able to pull off the 71-62 victory against Miami-Ohio.
“It was eerily similar to what happened to us, but they pulled it out and we didn’t,” head coach Suzy Merchant said during her weekly radio show Tuesday at Reno’s Sports Bar. “Miami was hustling to the ball, they played a lot of zone as well in that game — not strictly, but they were hitting a ton of threes, handled their pressure. I don’t think Florida State was on their ‘A’ game, and it kind of showed a bit.”
After MSU’s loss to IPFW, Merchant said her team lacked leadership and wasn’t good enough defensively.
“(I was) really disappointed in the performance we had last game,” Merchant said. “We learned a hard lesson, but maybe one we needed. (When) three of your top seven kids are freshman playing a lot of minutes, (and) two of them are your top three scorers and have the ball in their hand a lot, they’re going to make mistakes, and now they gotta learn from it. But they were actually our strongest scorers against (IPFW).”
Possibly able to play against the Seminoles on Wednesday is junior center Jasmine Hines. Hines has been out since September with a concussion, and Merchant said Hines practiced live for the first time since sustaining the injury on Monday.
Merchant said Hines might see action on Wednesday, but won’t play many minutes.
Along with junior center Madison Williams, the Spartans have been without two key post presences for much of the season.
Williams played minimal time against Rice and Temple but “tweaked” her knee and will continue to be monitored.
“(There have) been times when we’ve struggled because those are two veteran kids that really make a difference for us inside, obviously,” Merchant said. “We’ve had foul trouble situations and some struggles at times on the defensive side. I think they would make a difference for us, but we want them to be healthy.”
Junior forward Becca Mills has picked up extended minutes in their place and has done well early on, with 10.7 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game.
Like MSU, Florida State features a couple of prominent freshmen, as well as some veteran scorers.
Florida State guard Brittany Brown and forward Ivey Slaughter already have contributed for the Seminoles. Brown is averaging 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, while Slaughter is averaging 8.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
Seminole guard Morgan Jones and forward Natasha Howard also each average at least 14 points per game. Jones leads the team with 15.3 points per game.
Howard was selected as a preseason All-American. She nearly averages a double-double per game, with 14.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
“They’re short rotation, but they do a lot of things really, really well,” Merchant said. “Their guard play is good. They got a couple kids inside that are big and athletic and long, and they play nothing but zone, so we’ll have to attack the zone better than (against IPFW).”
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