Jasmine Hines’ dominant game on Sunday started with a conversation.
Hines, who posted a season-high 16 points and six rebounds in the 89-73 rout over then-No. 19 Purdue, had not been a major offensive factor this season. She suffered a torn hamstring at the end last season and missed the first seven games of this year.
Two days before the Purdue game, she met with head coach Suzy Merchant to discuss her role moving forward.
The result: Hines provided the newly-ranked No. 24 Spartans with an inside presence against the Boilmakers, something they have not consistently had this year.
“I met with coach Merchant a few days ago just to get everything together so I could come into this game and be effective,” Hines said. “I was my worst enemy and I had to change my mindset coming into this game. I think it worked.”
Perhaps a few more conversations between Merchant and players will be helpful down the road, because with Hines manning the paint, the Spartans played one of their most complete games of the year.
MSU had been overly reliant on outside shooting during the two-game home losing streak a couple of weeks ago, hoisting 20 3-pointers against Illinois and knocking down three.
For the loss against Penn State, they attempted 19 and hit five.
On Sunday, the Spartans attempted just 12, hitting four. With Hines working Purdue inside, it took pressure off of MSU’s shooters, such as freshman guard Tori Jankoska and senior forward Annalise Pickrel.
Once the transition game took off, the Spartans were attacking the paint and looking for opportunities inside instead of gambling on 3-pointers.
It led to 50 points in the paint, a number that surprised Jankoska.
“We usually don’t have a lot of points in the paint, but we’re a pretty good outside shooting team and we hit outside jumpers a lot,” Jankoska said. “Knowing we have both of them, we can go into the paint and if the paint’s not working, we can hit some outside shots.”
MSU is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the conference, but when they aren’t falling, the offense tends to stagnate.
Hines provided MSU with another option on Sunday, and it paid dividends — the Spartans shot 60 percent in a blistering second half that saw only three 3-pointers attempted.
The 3-point shot will continue to be a weapon, but Hines proved that the Spartans are a better team with an option inside the paint.
Along with junior forward Becca Mills, who has prowess in the paint but has struggled with foul trouble, Hines should be a point of emphasis on offense moving forward.
“It definitely is a confidence booster going into our next few games,” Hines said. “The key is to stay consistent because coach Merchant talks about consistency, and especially this season because we’ve struggled with consistency. I think it’ll help the team stay consistent.”
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