In her four years at Michigan State, senior guard Taryn McCutcheon has left an everlasting imprint on the women’s basketball team. She’s started every game she has played in and during her senior season became captain and eclipsed 1,000 points in her career. Through her career she has over 30 Big Ten wins and has helped defeat the Michigan Wolverines on five occasions. But there is one thing that she realized she hasn’t beat and won’t be able to. Time. Now she is trying to relay that message down the line.
The Spartans sit at 11-10 and 4-6 in-conference leading into Monday night's game at Maryland.
“It’s just a freshman thing like you just don’t understand how fast this goes by,” McCutcheon said.
“I’m sure everybody who’s went through here was saying their senior year, 'I wish I could’ve gone back and done this better.' We’re just trying to warn them, it goes faster than you think.”
While the games dwindle down for the seniors, they have realized how quickly time passes. Now McCutcheon and her fellow seniors want the underclassmen to realize how fast the four years go.
"It’s not like they don’t want to win, I just don’t think that they understand – they haven’t played in the Big Ten yet,” McCutcheon said.
“We have five freshman, I mean this is their first Big Ten season and I don’t think they quite understand how fast it goes. A lot of times I think freshman think, ‘Oh it’s okay I have three years left,' or whatever it is, but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t feel like that. It goes by super quick.”
With each game that passes, McCutcheon is closer to the end of her career as a Spartan. With the unpredictable injuries to others in her class – Shay Colley, Victoria Gaines and Mardrekia Cook– the young, inexperienced Spartans have struggled.
A lot of this season’s struggles can be placed on growing pains and injury, the Spartans haven’t been an easy opponent, but they haven’t been able to roll with all the punches – it has been one quarter or run that has shut them down.
“(It’s) competitive immaturity a little bit, a really young team, everyone thinks they’re competing, but they don’t really understand what it really takes at this level, night in and night out,” coach Suzy Merchant said.
“On one side our future could be bright, but you know, right now we have to win games."
In her final games McCutcheon wants this team to fight through adversity.
“If (Cook) could play right now, she’d be playing. If (Gaines) could play right now she’d be playing. I think sometimes we need to do a better job of understanding that we can’t take this for granted, just ties in to us being very young and inexperienced. They’ll learn, I just hope it’s not too late, because I want the best for them in the next four years, the freshmen and sophomores,” McCutcheon said.
But every player is supposed to go out strong, McCutcheon’s class has a few chances left to make that happen.
"This has been more than disappointing this year with the talent that we have," McCutcheon said. "Especially going into my senior year, because this has been such an amazing experience and everybody’s supposed to go out good, right?
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way, but I think that we still have enough games that we can fight back. But yeah, I definitely do want to go out with a bang. I’m doing everything I can.”
The younger players have started to realize what is at stake, with the seniors' urgency. Sophomore guard Nia Clouden, a young but established leader, recognized that the team needs to push through the adversity McCutcheon mentioned.
“I think the main message everyone has been saying is just we have to play hard and we just have to compete for 40 minutes, not just for a few minutes and not just when things are going good,” Clouden said.
Clouden knows this team has to get through the growing pains now.
“Just grow up,” Clouden said. “Me included, only being a sophomore. Our team’s really young and a lot of our vets have gone down to injuries, so I think it’s time we all grow up.”
Despite the injuries and struggles, the Spartans still have games to play and a reason to play them. For McCutcheon and her fellow seniors, some injured, it is their last chance to leave their mark. For the underclassmen, it's their opportunity to seize the moment before they are the seniors wondering where all that time went.
"Right now I think we need to do a better job of understanding that it does go by fast ... and play for people like (Cook) and (Gaines) who can't play."