Saturday, December 4, 2021

MSU women's basketball carefully avoiding Hampton upset

The No. 12 seed over No. 5 seed upset is perhaps the most common upset in the NCAA Tournament, as there seems to be one team every year who pulls the feat off.

A No. 5 seed for the second consecutive year, the women’s basketball team hasn’t forgotten the sloppy first round win against No. 12 Marist last year. This year, as they prepare to take on No. 12 Hampton on Sunday in College Park, N.C., the Spartans are prepared for the forthcoming battle.

Hampton, who swept the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, is an athletic team adept at rebounding and pressing. They will be a challenge for MSU, who at times have struggled on the boards.

The classic upset is the 12 beats the 5 seed,” senior forward Annalise Pickrel said. “Not looking past them is important because they are a good team, an athletic team, and if you can win 28 games and make it to the NCAA, you can beat anybody. Focusing on that is really going to be important.”

Hampton averaged 8.9 steals per game and forced opponents into turning the ball over 19.4 times per game. The Pirates are not an accurate perimeter team, shooting just 30.1 percent from behind the arc.

The Spartans still have a sour taste in their mouths from the Nebraska loss in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, and the last week and a half spent in practice has been dedicated towards getting back on track. 

"We all went into the game thinking we were going to win, and if we didn’t win, we weren’t going to go down without a fight,” freshman guard Tori Jankoska said. “We didn’t come out and play. We have to make sure we come in with a lot of energy and come ready to play, and not just play. We have to compete and play our hardest and outplay our opponent.”

A similarity between Hampton and MSU is both teams like to get up and down the court. The Spartans have found success taking advantage of transition opportunities, with Jankoska and redshirt freshman Aerial Powers particularly thriving in the open court. 

The transition game likely will play a role in what team emerges on top.

“I do like to run and push the ball like we’re starting to now this year,” Powers said. “We have to get back to transition defense. They play more at my pace, I would say.

"We’ve been better in practice for the last couple practices. More aggressive and hungry and paying attention to details. We just have to pick it up.”

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