Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This weekend, The State News' women's basketball reporter Sara Tidwell spoke with Kyle Leverone of The Daily Northwestern ahead of Sunday's NU and MSU game.
Things are not looking good for the Michigan State women's basketball team.
MSU is coming into this matchup on a snowy downward slope with two back-to-back conference losses in their pocket. First, they went 69-59 against Purdue on Jan. 9 and they followed that up 89-83 at Ohio State on Jan. 12.
However, they have managed to cause some hectic upsets at the Breslin this season – does Nebraska ring a bell? So, while consistency might not be their strong suit, that fire in their belly is.
The Spartans are 8-8 overall and 2-4 in conference. The Wildcats are 11-4 overall and 3-1 in conference.
This week, The State News' women's basketball reporter Sara Tidwell spoke with Kyle Leverone of The Daily Northwestern ahead of the Spartans' matchup with the Wildcats.
Q: What has NU been doing well? What have they been struggling with? Strengths and weaknesses? Biggest of each?
A: In their past two wins, they’ve been doing a good job of increasing production from other players on the court like guard Melannie Daley and forward Caileigh Walsh. Forward Courtney Shaw is always a compliment for guard Veronica Burton out there, but sometimes it appears that Burton needs just a little more supporting help. They’ve been struggling out of the gate in the past two games. Being down six to Ohio State after the first and being down a point to Rutgers on Thursday put them in a tough position, so they’ve gotta get off to better starts.
Strengths (are definitely in their) defense. Their defense is an outlet to their offense, and they build tons of momentum from forcing turnovers. If they hold a team under 70 points, they will win, as they have not lost this year while doing so. Weakness, like I mentioned earlier, is just that semi-inconsistent depth on the offensive end alongside (Burton). Every game we see someone new step up, and it appears that some of the freshmen are starting to get more comfortable in their roles, but it would be great to get several players involved in the game.
Q: What does MSU need to do to slow down Veronica Burton, who produced 40 of NU’s 68 points and accounted for another 22 just through assists against Rutgers on Jan. 13?
A: Head Coach Joe McKeown, fed up with ESPN’s Top 25 list, was talking about her Thursday after the Rutgers game and declared that he thinks that Burton is the best point guard in the country. That she might be. She is the court general for the Cats on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. If MSU wants any chance to slow Burton down, (they have to) always know where she is on defense. She comes out of nowhere and knows her opponents’ tendencies and anticipates any mindless passes. She gets started on defense and uses that to get her going on fast breaks.
Along with Burton, (Shaw) is our best forward and is a threat in the corners with a great mid-range shot. Also our best rebounder, she loves to scrap down low.
Q: Are there any COVID-19, or injury, issues still plaguing the program like there was in early January? If so, who is out? Anyone significant?
A: No specific COVID-19 protocols or injuries going on with the team right now, but the biggest obstacle for them is the constant scheduling changes. It’s been a tough month for them as a whole just trying to regain a sort of rhythm, as they didn’t play for about three weeks in December and January. They just had their Illinois game swapped out for Rutgers pretty suddenly and having to deal with online classes while most schools haven’t started back yet has been a bit of a struggle for them. But they’ve been quite strong through it all.M
Q: Who do you think needs to step up in order to handle MSU’s senior guard Nia Clouden? She’s been having some slow games as of late but knows when to heat up to produce 20+ points. What about against people like graduate forward Tamara Farquhar, junior forward Taiyier Parks and freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh? Together, the four produced 72 of MSU’s total 83 points, while Farquhar and Parks had 16 boards.
A: Obviously, I think Burton will be keeping a special eye out for her. Northwestern likes to play their intense 1-1-3 matchup zone for pretty much the whole game, so we won’t see too much one on one with Clouden and Burton, but as the defensive specialist that she is, the backcourt burglar, the abominable snowwoman in their Blizzard defense, Burton will get called upon to keep Clouden quiet. As for Farquhar, Parks and Ekh, I think that’ll be a group effort to handle them. As I said, Northwestern’s zone is their primary way of shutting teams down, so it’ll be a concerted effort in which the Cats need to communicate and find their rhythm on defense.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: I’ll take the Cats with a 74-65 victory this Sunday. I think Northwestern will be able to keep the Spartans under 70, and with MSU’s defensive struggles, Burton will be able to put up some good numbers along with a couple of other players such as Shaw and Daley. I’d say the first quarter is a huge point of interest though. If the Cats get a good start in the first quarter, it might be a tough game for MSU to come back, but it could certainly be an intriguing finish if we see a Spartan first-quarter lead. With all that being said, I like Northwestern in this one.
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