Monday, November 29, 2021

Spartan women's basketball steady at top of Big Ten race

February 26, 2014
	<p>Head coach Suzy Merchant motions to her team Feb. 24, 2014, during the game against Minnesota at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Gophers, 75-61. Julia Nagy/The State News</p>

Head coach Suzy Merchant motions to her team Feb. 24, 2014, during the game against Minnesota at Breslin Center. The Spartans defeated the Gophers, 75-61. Julia Nagy/The State News

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

A loss against Illinois on Jan. 23, a game the Spartans (19-8 overall, 11-3 Big Ten) lost control of in the second half, and a 20-point shellacking at the hands of Nebraska on Feb. 8 on the road are games MSU wishes it could redo.

“I think that we’ve blown our two opportunities that we’ve had when we were in first place,” senior guard Klarissa Bell said. “I think we kinda got ahead of ourselves a little bit.”

A third opportunity presented itself on Monday, when No. 16 Nebraska handed No. 8 Penn State its third conference loss of the year.

Coupled with MSU’s 75-61 victory against Minnesota that same night, the Spartans pulled within a half-game behind Penn State for the Big Ten lead and are tied with Nebraska.

With two games remaining, the Spartans have a small window to catch Penn State. But there is both an understanding and recognition that the margin for error is slim, if not nonexistent, and depends on the Spartans winning.

On Thursday, the Spartans travel to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern (14-13, 4-10) at 9 p.m. on Big Ten Network.

Despite the Wildcats’ low positioning in the conference standings, past losses have taught MSU not to take teams lightly, including a Wildcats team that gives others in the conference significant trouble.

“I felt really good about it, but it doesn’t do you any good to think about what could happen,” head coach Suzy Merchant said. “I want to take care of what happens here at home and what happens over the last two games. We have a tough road game, three games this week and certainly on the road at Northwestern is no easy task.”

A source of optimism is MSU’s 6-1 record on the road in conference play.

The Spartans have notably been sharp as a team when away from Breslin Center against Big Ten competition, as the 5-0 road start will attest to.

“It feels really good as a team to be in the position that we’re in,” said freshman guard Tori Jankoska. “We had the opportunity to be in control of our own destiny a couple times before.

“It’s great that we have the chance to do it again and we need to come in with the right mindset ... and play with energy and play on the road, which we have done so far.”

Discussion

Share and discuss “Spartan women's basketball steady at top of Big Ten race ” on social media.