After an emotional victory against in-state foe Central Michigan that saw Shay Colley sink a go-ahead layup with 7.6 seconds left, the Michigan State women’s basketball team was thrashed by Notre Dame in the second round of the 2019 NCAA Championship.
The No. 17 Lady Spartans, after wrecking Eastern Michigan and Detroit Mercy last week, now have a chance to redeem themselves against the No. 16 Fighting Irish this Thursday.
The Spartans return a majority of the team that was eliminated by the Fighting Irish last tournament while Notre Dame sent five of its players to the WNBA last season, including number one overall pick Jackie Young. However, that does not mean that the green and white are not ecstatic at their chance to get revenge.
(4:38 McCutcheon) “We’re all really excited for that game... that’s going to be a fun game. Any game where you look back in the past and you can see improvements are needed, I think that fuels your team to do better," said senior guard Taryn McCutcheon
“Really, it's just us against the world. Who’s going to want to see us go in there and win? ... That’s Notre Dame, that’s one of the most storied programs ever," said Head Coach Suzy Merchant. “I think both of us are looking forward to the challenge.”
While the Irish may have lost their entire starting lineup, they are still led by hall of fame coach Muffet McGraw, who has garnered over 800 wins in her time at South Bend and a group of very talented newcomers in Anaya Peoples and Sam Brunelle. Here are some things to watch for in this Thursday’s game.
After a tough start in the first game, the Lady Spartans dominated Detroit Mercy in the post. They out-rebounded the Trojans 52-25, including seven rebounds from freshman Taiyier Parks.
But Detroit Mercy is no Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish in the post are led by freshman Sam Brunelle. Standing at 6-foot-2, Brunelle was a McDonald’s All American, the Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year and the No. 6 overall rated recruit by ESPN this season. We will likely see defensive specialist Victoria Gaines guard her in this matchup.
If MSU wants to come out of South Bend with a victory, they are going to have to keep her in check and get some offensive production from Taiyier Parks and Kayla Belles off the bench.
Containing Star Backcourt
Not only do the Fighting Irish have Brunelle, but they also have a five-star freshman combo guard in Anaya Peoples. Peoples is a player who can create her own shot by driving to the basket or by pulling up from deep. Peoples has averaged 15 points per game thus far, including 19 in her last game against Loyola Maryland.
The Irish are led by Destinee Walker and Katlyn Gilbert, who scored 19 and 24 respectively in their win against Loyola Maryland. Both of these veterans are looking to continue the recent success that the Irish have had in the last few years.
The Spartans have been outstanding so far on the defensive end, forcing 30 Detroit Mercy turnovers in their last outing. It will be interesting to see if Suzy Merchant continues to use the press against a higher tier opponent, but so far, the press has been incredibly successful. That effort will have to continue into this matchup.
Michigan State brought in a top tier recruiting class this offseason, and they are already making a huge impact for the Spartans. Freshman Alyza Winston has been phenomenal off the bench for the green and white so far. Her speed with the ball is something to behold.
“She’s the fastest person I know. ... She’s going to be really good later in the season and later in her career," sophomore guard Nia Clouden said.
Taiyier Parks is another freshman who has been great for Suzy Merchant’s squad so far. Coming off the bench, she dropped 15 points in just 14 minutes of action. One of the keys of this game as mentioned earlier will be MSU needing to win the post battle. If Taiyier can have another great game off the bench, the Spartans will have a good chance in this.
Two other freshmen from the heralded recruiting class were wings Julia Ayrault and Moira Joiner. Joiner drew the start in the last game due to an injury to Colley in their previous game versus Eastern. Even if Colley was healthy and ready to play, she will be in Canada representing her national team.
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Joiner was able to play well in Colley’s absence. She scored nine points along with five rebounds and three assists. Her shot from deep looks smooth, and she does a great job facilitating the ball
While Julia Ayrault may have come off the bench, she still played 22 minutes in their last game. She provided a steady defensive presence for the green and white after having four steals in their last game. Both of these players will be key with the absence of Colley.
While the freshman have been great thus far, it is crucial that they continue their great start as they have already become key cogs in the lineup.
Tune into ACC at 8 p.m. on Thursday to watch the Lady Spartans take on the Fighting Irish.
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