Thursday, December 2, 2021

MSU women's basketball looks to capitalize on talent and experience in 2021-22

September 30, 2021

They're back and better than ever.

The Michigan State women's basketball team is coming in hot for their 2021-2022 season after being eliminated by Iowa State in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament.

Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant is entering her 14th season with the Spartans and has a squad that might be her best on paper that she has had in her MSU career.

"I am really excited about this group," Merchant said. "We have about 84% of our scoring back, our top seven scorers and a veteran group that the was the NCAA tournament team when they were young last year, but this year are very much more veterans with great leadership," Merchant said.

Merchant utilized the past year as a way not only for the team to practice and improve, but for her to grow as well.

"I tried to use this year to grow professionally as a coach and do some things differently," Merchant said. "We changed our offense last year and finished 29th in the country in scoring and 12th in the country for assists ... I didn't see it as a throw away year ... it gave me the gift of time. Time to have one-on-ones, we couldn't go out to a restaurant but we got to spend time talking and sharing ... so I looked at COVID year as an opportunity to grow professionally, but also to connect with our kids in a different way that maybe we weren't able to do in the past."

Players were thrilled to be back at the Breslin Center for their first practice as this years team is made up of both new faces and veterans.

However, there were none more excited than senior guard Nia Clouden, who is coming into this season as a guard who should be receiving lots of preseason hype when those awards come out.

"As a senior it's crazy I feel like it's changed so fast my freshman year to senior year," Clouden said. "I am really excited for the opportunity just to play as good as I can for my last season."

Clouden is expected to be the main voice in the locker room alongside senior forward Tory Ozment, who feels the talent and experience this team has will be crucial.

"We're really excited," Ozment said. "We have a lot of new faces, that will be a challenge at first, but I think this summer we've meshed really well. We have a lot of freshman and development this coming year, but I am super excited we have a lot of different weapons and a lot of tools."

There are 5 new additions to the team this season. This includes freshman guard Deedee Hagemann, freshman forward Lauren Walker, sophomore forward Matilda Ekh, freshman forward Isaline Alexander, and graduate student forward transfer from Purdue Tamara Farquhar.

Hagemann is expected the make the most immediate impact for the Spartans as a five star guard that will look to be the third guard off the bench behind the talented duo of Clouden and Alyza Winston.

"She (Deedee) just exudes personality," Merchant said. "She brings an expectation, she' a winner. I always tell people you lead by personality or by position, and that kid has both and she's a freshman ... the passion that she loves to play with. Pointing at people, chest bumping. She cares more about the assist than she does about the score herself, so very team oriented, very driven to be the best at Michigan State and move our program forward."

The entire team has one common goal in mind; to win. After a crazy past few years without fans and the normalcy of the game, this is something that the entire team is aiming for.

"I just want to win" Ozment said. "I think that's my main goal individually but also as a team I think we have a championship type of talent this year. I think that is our main goal coming into this year, so really looking for that Big Ten championship and then going on in the NCAA tournament."

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