Saturday, December 4, 2021

Time away from games helps women's basketball squad

March 18, 2014

The women’s basketball team got a much-needed week and a half off following a disappointing defeat in the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament to Nebraska.

But the time off was far from fun and games. Head coach Suzy Merchant has made the team practice hard in the time off, and the players agrees that the practices were needed.

“Coach really got into us - a lot - so I think that we learned a lot about ourselves,” senior guard Klarissa Bell said. “We worked on our defense a lot because that was struggling in the Big Ten Tournament and we put in some new plays. So hopefully, we have a new feel going into the tournament.”

The Spartans are traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C., as a No. 5 seed to play No. 12 seed Hampton on Sunday.

Merchant, who didn’t call a timeout as Nebraska built a 23-point first half lead in the semifinal round, said on Monday the loss was a lesson the team needed to learn. The week off has allowed the Spartans to refocus as the first-round game against Hampton approaches this weekend.

“The nice thing is that we’re just able to concentrate on ourselves,” Merchant said of the practices. “You don’t know who you’re going to play, what style you’re going against. For us, some of the areas you felt like you needed to do a better job with, we tried to focus on, whether it be the offensive or defensive side of the ball.”

Merchant was critical of her senior veterans following the defeat, but took a softer stance on Monday following the selection show. The Spartans certainly will need a better showing from Bell and senior forward Annalise Pickrel if they want to make a postseason run, and both captains realize they have to step up.

“I think Klarissa and I have to do a good job of making sure everyone stays focused and we just completely dominate when we play,” Pickrel said. “Neither one of us really brought that in the Big Ten Tournament. I guess speaking for myself, I didn’t. It’s going to be really important for us to do that for our team.”

Bell and Pickrel understand that the Spartans didn’t play up to potential in the Big Ten Tournament. Losing to Nebraska wasn’t the result MSU wanted, but it was perhaps the wake-up call MSU needed.

“It took a while to get over that one and I don’t think anyone really is still over it,” Pickrel said. “Going to the NCAA Tournament, it’s motivating to know that that’s not the type of team we are. Going into the NCAA Tournament gives us an extra step or an extra ounce of motivation not to be that team.”

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