The Michigan State women’s basketball team has been short-handed all season.
We know the story, it never stops changing and getting told: Senior guard/forward Tory Ozment tore her ACL, junior forward Julia Ayrault fractured her Lisfranc joint, junior guard Moira Joiner chained to concussion protocol and junior guard Alyza Winston packed her bags for Mississippi State.
Freshman guard DeeDee Hagemann is also dealing with a concussion after their Feb. 12 trip to Bloomington, and no doubt made it worse after taking a tumble and bouncing her head off the court last night in the first five minutes of their loss to Penn State. The echo of the ricochet her skull did was louder than the basketball itself and she had laid there, writhing in pain for a moment before getting up and continuing a shockingly stunning performance.
Even freshman forward Isaline Alexander was injured last night, after apparently hurting her knee in practice over the weekend, leaving the bench down to a weak rotation of four, costing them what should have been an easy victory. Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant said postgame that, while it’s not another ACL issue to bear, she doesn't know how long the freshman forward will be out.
To put the cherry on top of the melting sundae that is the program, senior guard Nia Clouden walked into the postgame press conference with a large bag of ice wrapped around her tweaked ankle. She tried to joke it off, but the air in the room was thick with suspense: Losing the senior guard, their WNBA material shooter, would be the definite end of the line.
“It’s hard,” Merchant said, looking extra defeated. “Every game it’s multiple people. … We’ve got so many experienced kids sitting on the bench. Now you add a kid, like Isa, who’s actually been playing extremely well, maybe the best in the post to be honest lately, … now you have none of those minutes. … It seems like we have so much adversity. Every time we turn around it’s another setback. … Who knows tomorrow what’s going to happen.”
Last night, the gaps that needed to be filled were not. Merchant expressed heavy disappointment in her post players like graduate forward Alisia Smith and junior center Taiyier Parks, specifically. She said that they were not listening and, in turn, didn’t show up like they should have as upperclassmen, costing them their usually strong attack in the paint.
“Our margin of error is small,” Merchant said. “To ask DeeDee and (freshman guard) Matilda (Ekh) to do those things when they don’t really know what’s happening as freshmen per se, it’s asking them to do a lot. I think (the post players’) consistency, effort and toughness have to come up a little bit for us to win in (these) situations.”
Merchant said, on the other hand, graduate forward Tamara Farquhar has been a hustler, despite the numerous downfalls. She carried the post on her back last night when her teammates were nowhere to be found, collecting 13 rebounds, eight defensive and five offensive.
“It’s like Dennis Rodman always said, ‘I was a great rebounder, what’s the secret? I went for every ball. … Never was there a possession I didn’t go for (one)’,” Merchant said. “I think that’s Tamara. On offense, her job is to go get a rebound. … She never stands or pretends she gets boxed out like other people. This kid works her way, gets around, gets a tip, finds a way even on defense to get rebounds out of her zone. … Nobody else comes close.”
“If you have handicap situations, whether that be so many injuries and things like that, it can make it more difficult down the stretch,” Merchant said. “I just told them, we don’t have time to whine and cry about it. People have to own the fact that they were not very good tonight and they need to be better. Whether that’s defending the arc, defending the post player inside, getting a rebound or setting a good screen.”
Their 79-71 loss last night to the Lady Lions pretty much shot their NCAA Tournament dreams in the foot unless they somehow manage to pull off a win over No. 6 Michigan on Thursday and No. 17 Ohio State on Sunday.
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