Michigan State women’s basketball is taking a roadtrip to Ann Arbor Thursday for a rematch against their in-state rivals the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines.
The Spartans bested the Wolverines 63-57 during their first meeting in a shocking upset in East Lansing but will have to bring that same energy in order to bounce back from some recent losses and pull off a sweep against a tough Michigan team.
The Spartans will be without freshman forward Isaline Alexander due to a knee injury as confirmed by Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant. Alexander was instrumental in their victory over the Wolverines, playing a season-high 16 minutes and finishing with eight points and four rebounds.
“Just disappointed for Isa because she was really playing extremely well at the time and we really needed that punch a little bit too,” Merchant said. “It’s nice to have a little extra depth in that position and she was coming around.”
The other post players will have to step in her absence to stop Michigan’s star senior forward Naz Hillmon — who put up 27 points and nine rebounds the last time the two teams met.
“Naz is one of the best post players in the country and I thought Isa did an exceptional job on her, but Smitty (graduate student forward Alisia Smith) Tai (junior center Taiyier Parks) and Brooklyn (freshman center Brooklyn Rewers), Smitty and Tai as upperclassmen, certainly know what the job is and what they have to do and it’s certainly a task for anyone that faces that kid,” Merchant said.
In order to complete the sweep, the Spartans will also have to shake off the jitters that come with playing on the road. They are currently 4-8 in road games including games played in neutral locations compared to the Wolverines who are 13-0 in home games this season. Thursday’s matchup will also serve as senior night for Michigan.
“Playing on the road in this league is hard, especially at Michigan,” Merchant said. “It’s senior night. That’s always a challenge whenever you play anybody on the road and now you add in senior night, it’s (Hillmon's) last game. We’re gonna have to play extremely well as a team and we had to play extremely well here too. I thought our kids brought good energy and effort in that game and it’s certainly gonna take that again.”
The team knows what they’re up against and has been preparing for the much-anticipated rematch.
“We all know that it’s going to be a tough game,” freshman guard Matilda Ekh said. “They want revenge for sure for our last game. We are just going into a tough game and we gotta be prepared.”
After getting a taste for the rivalry, now the freshmen have even embraced what it means.
“Our main focus is just us coming together as a team cause we know it’s us vs. them and the crowd and the whole Ann Arbor at that so we just have to stay poised and stay together,” freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann said. “We’re very excited to play them again and we’re really ready to get another dub, show them who owns Michigan.”
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