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 week, The State News' women's basketball beat writer Sara Tidwell spoke with Logan Bourandas of The Daily Collegian ahead of Thursday’s PSU and MSU game.
Michigan State is on a win streak for the first time since they opened their season 4-0 in early November. Their court communication is expanding, their freshman are getting comfortable and their goals remain steady with nine games left in the regular season.
Nevertheless, the Spartans hold a 1-4 record on the road this season, meaning they have very slim odds coming into Penn State's big cat territory — where the Nittany Lions are 6-2 in the Bryce Jordan Center. The first and only time MSU won a road game was against Oakland on Nov. 26.
In broad aspect, the Spartans are 10-8 overall and 4-3 in conference. The Nittany Lions are 9-9 overall and 3-5 in conference.
This week, The State News' women's basketball beat writer Sara Tidwell spoke with Logan Bourandas of The Daily Collegian ahead of the Spartans' matchup with the Nittany Lions.
Q: What has PSU been doing well? What have they been struggling with? Biggest strengths and weaknesses?
A: While the Lady Lions last game against Wisconsin may be a bad example, the team has gotten way better on the defensive end. Since Head Coach Carolyn Kieger put the two in the lineup together, junior guard Shay Hagans and redshirt freshman guard Leilani Kapinus have done really well on the defensive end with both being defense-first guards.
On some nights, finding scoring outside of junior guard Makenna Marisa has been hard to come by. Especially against some of the top teams in the conference, Marisa has been forced to carry a big load of the offense and that was seen most recently against Wisconsin last week. Marisa had 26 points, while the next leading scorer for the Lady Lions only had 10.
Q: Are the Lady Lions missing anyone due to COVID-19 or injury like the Spartans are?
A: Senior guard Niya Beverley opened up the season as a primary starter for the Lady Lions, but has not seen the court since Jan. 6 against Maryland, which was five games ago.
Beverley is averaging six points and two rebounds this season.
Q: Who do you think needs to step up in order to handle MSU’s Swedish superstar, freshman guard/forward Matilda Ekh?
A: This should be a fun defensive matchup to watch if Marisa is the one who ends up guarding Ekh. Kieger said towards the start of the season that Marisa has the potential to be one of the top guards in the country and now she is being presented with a good chance to show that potential.
Marisa has shown great flashes on the defensive end, especially earlier this season when she recorded a triple-double with steals against Delaware State. With 30 steals on the season, Marisa ranks just behind Hagans and Kapinus on the team in that category.
Q: What does MSU need to do to slow down and box out junior guard Makenna Marisa, who’s one of the top guards in the country averaging 22 points per game against Big Ten opponents?
A: Marisa has taken a huge jump this season. I mentioned earlier what Kieger thought of her potential and she has lived up to it.
She’s excelled at several key aspects of the game, especially her three-point shooting, which has gotten better as the season has gone along.
However, Marisa does have a tendency to play hero-ball when things aren’t going the team's way. This leads to Marisa chucking up more shots than she needs to and, in some cases, that will lead to high turnover numbers, which was seen against Wisconsin – she had a season-high eight turnovers in the loss.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: I think Michigan State wins in a close contest, I’ll go with a 67-63 score. Both teams are close in the standings so it should be fun. This Penn State team will come into this matchup having played a tough Iowa team just two days prior, while Michigan State has been preparing for this matchup since Sunday and that rest will be a big help for them come gametime.
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