Heading into its first regular season game of the year Sunday, MSU women’s basketball is still getting back into the swing of things.
After playing a scrimmage against Toledo and an exhibition contest against Grand Valley State, head coach Suzy Merchant sees room for improvement.
“To me, it’s about consistency right now,” Merchant said. “That’s where (Jasmine Hines) and Becca (Mills) as captains got to step up a little more and mold this team. And it starts with them. I think I saw some really good things and there were times when I felt like we looked like we haven’t played the game in a very long time.”
Mills and Hines are senior captains for the squad, and their post presence will be important this weekend in the opener against Eastern Michigan.
Mills believes that the team’s inconsistent exhibition opener was a result of still adjusting to one another’s style of play.
“We have a lot of new people and we’re learning how to play together,” Mills said. “I don’t think we play off each other as well as we possibly can at this point. That’s something we need to keep working on.”
Stamina will also be a focus going forward. In MSU’s exhibition, sophomore guard Tori Jankoska played 39 minutes. Merchant said that she doesn’t expect Jankoska to get burned out from playing so many minutes because the guard is “built for it.”
Merchant also said that she wants to see redshirt sophomore forward Aerial Powers handle a lot of minutes.
“(We) gotta get (Jankoska) and Aerial to play through fatigue a little bit,” Merchant said. “That’s part of getting in basketball shape, actually playing up and down a little bit, not just practice, but being able to go in four-minute stretches and then a media timeout.”
While MSU is still trying to find its footing, EMU should be a good test for the Spartans. Merchant noted that EMU’s quickness and speed will test her team.
EMU finished 18-14 last season but went 11-3 in the non-conference schedule. The Eagles, like the Spartans, were led by two freshmen last season and those players will now be the focal point of the offense.
EMU returns sophomore guards Cha Sweeney and Janay Morton, who scored 17.4 and 13.0 points per game last season, respectively.
MSU’s defensive pressure was lacking at times in last weekend’s exhibition, and if MSU hopes to contain Sweeney and Morton, something will need to change.
“We have to get better at defense,” Mills said. “Coach pointed that out. I think a lot of us realized it when we were on the floor that we weren’t very disciplined down the stretch. ... If we can get our defense down and get our rebounds up, I think in the next couple weeks we can really step it up.”
MSU will host EMU 2 p.m. Sunday at Breslin Center.