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Preview: MSU women's basketball set to face Valparaiso and Bryant this week

November 16, 2021
<p>Freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann defends against Niagara Purple Eagles during Michigan State&#x27;s victory on Nov. 14, 2021.</p>

Freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann defends against Niagara Purple Eagles during Michigan State's victory on Nov. 14, 2021.

Photo by Rahmya Trewern | The State News

Michigan State looks to take on the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Bryant Bulldogs at home this week after a solid 2-0 start to the season. The Spartans look to build off lessons learned from the first few weeks of play and continue their success.

Their most recent win came against Niagara where they faced an aggressive defense, including the first full-court press they’ve seen this season.

“Their style is really hard to guard. They beat Purdue last year. They beat a couple of BCS teams last year. They’re doing a really good job this year,” Michigan State Women's Basketball Head Coach Suzy Merchant said.

The Bulldogs are also 0-2 on the season after losses to Iona and UMass Lowell, but look to turn things around against Brown University before taking on the Spartans on Friday. 

After the win, Merchant focused on the need to improve defensive rebounding and finishing possessions as things to work on before their next games.

“I think today there are some things we can certainly do better, defensive rebounding ... just finishing possessions a little bit," Merchant said. "I think it’s great we all want to play fast, but we just can’t leave it up to one and a half, two people down there to rebound.”

Physicality is another thing Merchant wants to focus on. Spartan teams are known for that, but Merchant still feels they need more of that going forward.

She thinks her team has got to get a little tougher and they need to attack the basket to get more trips to the free throw line. She expressed her disappointment in her team only getting to shoot free throws against Niagara.

She looks to use these upcoming games as learning opportunities for the team, especially one that is looking to fill the holes left by the season-ending injuries for senior forward Tory Ozment and junior forward Julia Ayrault.

“For us it’s just about learning what we can do better and being exposed a little bit to some areas that maybe we have to find ways to one, enhance and two, fix,” Merchant said.

After her stellar performance last week, freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann will be ending this home stand with the title of Big Ten Freshman of the Week. She is the first Spartan to receive this honor since senior guard Nia Clouden in 2018, who is now on the Wooden Award and Wade Trophy watch lists.

Junior guard Alyza Winston also continues to set herself on pace to have a record breaking season and already has a career high six steals and six assists on the season. If these three are in the lineup, MSU stands a fighting chance in any game they play this season.

While many of her players have already recorded some impressive stats this season, Merchant is nearing a few of her own. She is one game away from her 500th career win and just two games from her 300th win at MSU, which would make her only the second women’s basketball coach in school history with 300 wins. 

After these two home matchups, the Spartans will head to the Bronx for their first game on the road against Fordham on Sunday.

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