With the Big Ten Tournament semifinal game against Nebraska slipping away in the first half, head coach Suzy Merchant made a curious decision - it would be better if she didn’t call a timeout as the deficit became insurmountable.
Nebraska, which defeated the Spartans 86-58 and led by 23 at halftime, was relentless. Nebraska’s veterans showed up ready to play, even with senior forward and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Jordan Hooper playing limited minutes because of foul trouble.
Merchant, who said MSU players made excuses during media timeouts, wanted to see what her upperclassmen were made of. She wanted to see her veterans step up and will the team into fighting back.
Obviously, that didn’t happen, and Merchant was critical of the performance of her veterans after the game.
“I don’t think our upperclassmen vets were anywhere to be found,” Merchant said after the game. “Quite honestly, that’s what this time is about. It isn’t for a freshman to come and have good showings, it’s for your seniors and your juniors who have been here and done it to do their jobs, and we didn’t get that out of them today. Obviously, (it) affected our ability to win the game.”
Senior guard and co-captain Klarissa Bell , who had seven points, three assists and six turnovers, said a timeout possibly could have helped the team regain control during Nebraska’s 32-12 run.
“I think that timeouts can be good and they can also be bad,” Bell said. “Who knows, I don’t know. It probably could have helped.”
Both Bell and fellow senior co-captain Annalise Pickrel , who missed all seven of her shots and turned the ball over four times, expressed regret over the team’s performance after the game.
Pickrel also looked at the positives, pointing out the solid performances of junior forward Becca Mills, redshirt freshman guard Aerial Powers and redshirt freshman guard Branndais Agee during the tournament and the Nebraska game specifically.
“They kind of lifted us up in the second half,” Pickrel said. “Even though we still sucked, that’s something that’s positive out of it. It’s like, at this point in the season you can’t be ... focusing on such negative things because we get that from coaches and media - sorry, no offense - but whatever.
“I think we did a good job of staying together in the second half.”
Merchant said at some point, the team has to learn a lesson and play through it.
On Saturday night, the Spartans learned a tough lesson indeed.
“We had media timeout after media timeout. How many timeouts do you need?” Merchant asked rhetorically after Saturday’s game.
“How many timeouts can you call? At that point I just felt like every time they came out, they had a reason for why they weren’t performing, it was the officials or each other or something.
“I’m not going to add to that. Sometimes, you need to own up and be accountable and gut things out, and I don’t think (calling a timeout) would have made a difference.”
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