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Unbalanced scoring load hurting women's basketball early in season

November 20, 2014
<p>Redshirted sophomore forward Aerial Powers goes up for a rebound during the game against Notre Dame on Nov. 19, 2014, at Breslin Center. The Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans, 71-63. Aerika Williams/The State News.</p>

Redshirted sophomore forward Aerial Powers goes up for a rebound during the game against Notre Dame on Nov. 19, 2014, at Breslin Center. The Fighting Irish defeated the Spartans, 71-63. Aerika Williams/The State News.

MSU let one slip away against No. 3 Notre Dame on Wednesday night, and the Spartans missed out on winning a statement game.

MSU struggled at the free throw line, especially in the second half. After leading at halftime by one, the Spartans shot 5-of-16 from the line after the break, making a total of 15-of-28 free throws in the game.

MSU was carried by its top two scorers, sophomore guard Tori Jankoska and forward Aerial Powers , who scored 20 and 27 points, respectively. No one else topped double digit for the Spartans, something that concerned head coach Suzy Merchant . Merchant is still looking for another consistent contributor on offense.

“That has to be Becca (Mills) and Jas (Hines),” Merchant said. “That’s our third and fourth. That’s why it’s disappointing because they’re seniors and they’re captains, it’s a big game, it’s home. I felt like they were really ready and kind of understood, but for whatever reason, I’m not sure what was going on there.”

Mills, a senior forward, notched five fouls in just 18 minutes on the court, picking up just two points and five rebounds in that frame. Merchant noted that she expects Mills to put up 15 points and 10 rebounds consistently.

Powers, who has shouldered much of the offensive load in this young season, also thinks that the Spartans need another weapon to emerge.

“It would be nice to have that third person,” Powers said. “I’m not sure who it’s gonna be yet, we’re trying to figure that out. Someone does have to step up. It just can’t be me and (Jankoska). I would like for it to be one of our bigs ... Once we get that, we’re gonna be nice. We’re gonna be a more balanced team.”

As for Powers, her numbers in the first two games have been impressive. She is averaging 23.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game . She even drew the attention of Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw , a three time National Coach of the Year.

“She’s gotta be a player of the year candidate,” McGraw said of Powers. “She is so hard to guard. She’s tough to box out, I mean she had 11 rebounds. She can score in so many different ways, she runs the floor. You really gotta know where she is all the time. I think she’s a phenomenal player.”

Aside from Powers and Jankoska, Merchant was impressed by the play of senior guard Anna Morrissey . A former walk-on, Morrissey chipped in five rebounds and four assists in the loss and served as a steady game manager.

“She’s just solid right now,” Merchant said. “That’s kind of what we need. It helps Aerial and Tori stay in the zones they need to stay in. I’m really proud of how she stepped up.”

MSU’s next game will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday at home against IUPUI (1-1) . The Jaguars are certainly not of Notre Dame’s caliber, but don’t expect the Spartans to have any sort of emotional or mental letdown.

“Teams that are at that high level need to and do play with a lot of energy every single game and they take every opponent the same way,” Jankoska said. “We’re not gonna take them any more lightly than we did Notre Dame.”

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