After Thursday’s loss to Illinois, the women’s basketball team had no answers for the two-game slump. But on Sunday, Madison Williams emerged as the solution.
The junior center blocked a career-high seven shots and grabbed eight rebounds in 19 minutes, spurring a 13-0 first-half run to help the Spartans (13-7 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) defeat Ohio State on the road, 82-68. Williams had missed two of the previous three games, but Sunday was a showcase of just how dominant the center can be.
Merchant addressed the media on Monday and said Sunday’s game was what Williams needed.
“They got out of the gates pretty hard with that dribble drive motion,” Merchant said. “(As) soon as we put her in, she really affected their ability to get to the rim, which is what the offense is about. I was proud of her.”
After three ACL tears, Williams has yet to receive consistent playing time in the rotation this year as the coaching staff gets her reacclimated to playing meaningful minutes. Against Ohio State, she was the defensive presence at times the Spartans have lacked in the paint this season.
The game also was a huge confidence-booster for the junior center, who played a career-high in minutes, as well as double-digit minutes, for the first time since Jan. 4 against Minnesota.
“I definitely think she was proud of herself,” Merchant said. “I notice that she needed one of those games eventually to get herself back and feeling good. I always thought when she did play her minutes, with the exception of 45 seconds to a minute at Michigan, she’s been an impact for us. It was just nice to be able to play her almost half the game.”
Merchant said she texted Williams Monday morning to see how she felt. Williams was winded in the second half and did much of her damage in the first.
Regardless, her six first-half blocks allowed the Spartans to put the game away early.
“She hadn’t practiced in about two weeks, over two weeks,” Merchant said. “You saw some issues in the second half, but it’s because the kid has seriously not practiced in over two weeks.
“Just really proud of her. She was patient and aggressive and once she got one or two, she wasn’t over-trying to get the next one. She was just playing within herself. It made a huge difference for us.”
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