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Preview: Michigan State women's basketball keys to the game versus Detroit Mercy

December 2, 2020
The Michigan State University Women's Basketball Team huddles together during halftime on November 27, 2020.
The Michigan State University Women's Basketball Team huddles together during halftime on November 27, 2020. —
Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

Hot off of a dominating win over St. Francis last week, Michigan State (1-0) is looking to ride the hot streak against in-state opponent Detroit Mercy (0-2) Wednesday night at the Breslin. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

The Spartans cruised in this matchup last season after defeating the Titans 110-52.

In their win over the Red Flash last week, Michigan State was without a few of their major contributors, including guard Alyza Winston, center Cydni Dodd, and incoming transfers Janai Crooms, Jayla James and Alisia Smith. Winston last season against Detroit Mercy dropped 17 points in 24 minutes of action.

“I had six kids sitting in street clothes tonight, so our depth was a little bit of an issue, but it gave opportunity to some other people who don’t normally get it,” Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant said after the St. Francis game. 

Michigan State was led by point guard Nia Clouden with 15 points and 10 assists, and freshman Kendall Bostic with 15 points and six rebounds in their win over St. Francis. With the absence of a few key contributors, Bostic provided a nice spark off the bench when they needed it most.

“Her work ethic is off the charts,” Merchant said of Bostic. “She’s in great shape ... Also (she) is in the gym all the time, she comes in here on her own, she works out quite a bit with (associate head) coach Dean (Lockwood). Her commitment has allowed her to play multiple positions for us as a freshman, which is pretty unusual.”

Detroit Mercy brings in a new head coach this year in AnnMarie Gilbert, who was an assistant coach under former MSU head coach Joanne McCallie. Gilbert has two high octane scorers in Kaela Webb with 19.5 points per game and Markyia McCormick with 17 points per game, that will look to give the Spartans fits.

Here are some keys for each squad in tonight’s matchup.

Michigan State’s keys:

Develop depth

The talent level difference between these two squads isn’t particularly close, as illustrated by last year’s scoreline. However, that shouldn’t stop the Spartans from making this an important game in their development going forward.

Michigan State was only able to play 10 athletes last Friday with multiple out for a variety of reasons. As Michigan State heads into Big Ten play, the Spartans and Merchant will need depth to be able to compete at a high level. As we have seen with the men’s team this season, depth is also key as the pandemic rages on.

Limit turnovers

The key to avoiding any upset in basketball is by playing a clean game; turnovers can quickly unravel a gameplan.

Take a look at the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball game earlier this week where Oakland forced 20 turnovers, causing the game to go into overtime despite the Wolverines being heavy favorites.

Michigan State did a great job in their previous game against St. Francis in limiting turnovers and in passing the ball by finishing the game with 25 assists on 29 made baskets. They’ll need that to ensure a scare against the Titans.

Run the Titans off of the three-point line

With Webb and McCormick each shooting 50% from behind the arc this season, the Titans can put up buckets in a hurry. 

The Spartans game plan should be to limit the number of chances Detroit Mercy has from the perimeter and force the Titans’ offense to make tough shots from within the three point arc.

Detroit Mercy’s Keys to the game

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Disrupt Nia Clouden

Clouden is what makes the engine run for the Spartans offense with the way she distributes the ball on offense. 

The Titans should do everything they can to make this game difficult for Clouden by jumping passing lanes and playing tough, in your face defense to force turnovers to prevent the Spartans from getting easy baskets.

This will force the other players on the Michigan State roster to make plays on offense rather than get some easy buckets on the behalf of Clouden’s special playmaking ability.

Get the Spartans in foul trouble

If there’s one area the Spartans do not have much depth it is in their frontcourt after the departure of Kayla Belles to BYU and Victoria “Coco” Gaines graduating. Starting center Taiyier Parks has issues with foul trouble last season and finished last week’s game against St. Francis with four fouls.

If Detroit Mercy can get Parks into foul trouble, that will eliminate a strong post player on both ends of the court and force the Spartans to play small.

Establish an identity

It’s year one for Coach Gilbert who is looking to put the Titans on the map after the team struggled a year ago. A win against an in-state opponent like Michigan State would do wonders for recruiting and exposure for the program.

To pull this off, you need an identity.

Are you a pesky defensive team? A live or die by three kind of team? High energy and running in transition? Gilbert has a chance to establish that, and it could go a long way in helping them defeat the Spartans in East Lansing.

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