It's one milestone after another for Michigan State women's basketball (4-0) Head Coach Suzy Merchant.
On Tuesday, she reached her 500th career win, and today, she reached her 300th win in the green and white after her Spartans fenced in the Bryant Bulldogs (0-4) in a 100-60 victory.
"I just appreciate being a Spartan," Merchant said. "I wanted to be one coming out of high school, but I wasn't quite good enough, I was more of a mid-major player. ... Where I came from, you're either a Spartan or a Wolverine and we've always been Spartans. To stand on the sidelines means something. ... To get 300, that's something. But now I'm looking for 301."
In Bryant's last game against Brown, the scoring looked quite similar to what was happening here at the Breslin in the first quarter: Extremely close.
The Bulldogs got the board going first, but were quickly shut down by the Spartans when freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh knocked in a jumper from beyond the arc.
The Spartans had a bit of a stir up in their starting five this game with junior guard Moira Joiner out – she took a nasty fall in the final 30 seconds of play against Valparaiso on Tuesday and was found today on the bench in warm up gear beside Tory Ozment (ACL) and Julia Ayrault (foot). Merchant said postgame that, while it's not a serious injury, Joiner is currently on concussion protocol, but should be fine to play Sunday.
"We need everybody every night. We don't have a lot of leniency when it comes to (injury) because we those core eight kids," Merchant said.
Graduate forward Tamara Farquhar subbed in for Joiner, working with graduate forward Alisia Smith, junior guard Alyza Winston, senior guard Nia Clouden and Ekh to build the Spartans a 10-point lead at the end of the first quarter.
Two minutes into gameplay, Farquhar caught a steal off a bad pass from Bryant's junior guard Nicole Gallagher that allowed both Winston and Ekh to get up shot attempts. However, the Spartans were unable to capitalize and the ball was lost.
"I really just want to fulfill my role as best I can, which is in rebounding and defending," Farquhar said. "I'm not focused (on the numbers I'm pulling) while I'm playing."
Farquhar found herself in all the right places at the right times this morning, ending the half with six points, three offensive rebound and two steals. By the final buzzer, she totaled out with 12 points, eight rebounds, one assist and two steals, coming close to a second double-double of the season. She earned her first against Valpo, with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"She plays so hard. ... She's always consistently going for the boards, she never gives in," Merchant said. "She has that Robin [Lopez] mentality. I think someone asked Robin once, 'How are you such a good rebounder?,' and he said 'Because I go after every ball and I don't not. I never take a play off when the shot goes up,' and I think that's what (Tamara) does on both ends of the floor. She finishes plays and we're certainly going to need that, no question (about it)."
The Spartans went on to extend their lead by almost triple at the half, with a team total of 16 rebounds, 12 assists and eight steals, while shooting 59% from the field and 55% from beyond the arc.
Going into the second half, the Spartans had four players in foul trouble: Clouden, Ekh, Smith and junior forward Taiyier Parks had collected three personals each. Bryant also had three players in foul trouble.
The aggression in the game was present. However, the green and white remain cool, calm and collected.
Clouden recorded her first 20-point game of the season, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds, eight assists and two steals.
Graduate guard Laurel Jacqmain knocked in the three-pointer in the final three minutes of the game that pushed the Spartans into triple digits for the first time this season.
"I think her work ethic is exceptional. When you look the amount of shots and time she spends in the gym, I mean, she shot twice as many as our scholarship kids," Merchant said. "She's played behind some really good players and ... I trust her because she's put that work in. ... She's the first one in the gym, the last one to leave, she takes charges, she's smart. She's not the most athletic kid we could put in, but her work ethic is exceptional and she takes a lot of pride in what she's doing. ... She's earned the opportunity (to get minutes)."
"I was happy about (Lo scoring). I love when she scores, she's my best buddy," Clouden said. "This is the first time we got to 100 and that was the goal before the game, so I'm glad (it played out)."
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Winston and Ekh added an additional 28 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The undefeated Michigan State Spartans (4-0) will travel to the Bronx, New York, for their first road game of the season against the Fordham Rams (2-1) next on Sunday, Nov. 21. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. This will be the start of a three-game road tour that will stretch until Sunday, Nov. 28.
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