After missing the first few games of her collegiate career due to illness and injury, freshman guard Abbey Kimball is starting to find her legs.
In front of a home crowd at the Breslin Center, during the game to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Kimball scored a career-high 13 points as Michigan State defeated Rutgers, 85-63.
Kimball said starting her time as a Spartan on the bench due to physical setbacks was a “learning experience.”
“It was definitely hard at the beginning just because I felt like I knew what I could do, but it was just kind of the process that happened and it was definitely unexpected with having Mono and back injuries, but everything happens for a reason,” Kimball said. “I'm just doing the most I can, and my teammates have been there for me.”
Head Coach Suzy Merchant said Kimball has “been playing well” and is “starting to get into her groove” since making her first appearance against Western Michigan in November.
“It's not like (with) Mono you can … rehab and do other things … she really had to rest, then had a back injury, so she's kind of having a couple of things early,” Merchant said. “I think her basketball timing and everything has come back, and we saw that a little bit before Christmas, and certainly felt that way through this early part of January.”
Senior guard Moira Joiner matched Kimball’s points on Sunday, giving her double-digits in four out of MSU’s last five games. Joiner reiterated Merchant’s remarks and said Kimball has been the Spartans’ “little spark” recently.
“I'm really proud of her because she battled a lot through the beginning of the season, and just mentally and everything coming in as a freshman like she did,” Joiner said. “I'm just proud that she is getting back in her groove again, and we need her, so I'm glad she's doing it.”
Before the 22-point victory, the Spartans were riding a four-game losing streak dating back to Jan. 7 at Maryland and had just two conference wins on the year.
“We weren't gonna lose this game,” Joiner said. “We needed it. We're tired of losing, especially the close ones. You know, those ones really hurt. But yeah, we weren't close today and we just needed to get it done.”
MSU jumped out of the gate with a 9-0 run from the paint, allowing the Spartans to gain control from the get-go and maintain the lead for the entire game. Merchant said her team also emphasized defensive rebounding, an area for them of focus as of late.
“I think part of the reason why we were efficient was because we were able to get stops and keep our pressure on them in our transition game,” Merchant said. “I thought our players, whether they were subs or starters, did a good job of pushing tempo and making good decisions within there, you know, not giving it back to them when we had opportunities to get stops.”
In addition to Joiner and Kimball, sophomore guard/forward Matilda Ekh was the third member of the team to hit 13 points against the Scarlet Knights. Senior forward Taiyier Parks led MSU in scoring with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Joiner and Kimball said they appreciated the attendance from former women’s basketball alumni and other Title IX trailblazers who paved the way for them and other female athletes.
“It was awesome to see all the support,” Kimball said. “I mean, I love Michigan State and everything about us, so I'm happy like all of them came back to watch the game and cheer us on.”
Joiner emphasized the sentiment.
"Those ladies that have come before all of us are cool, and they're easy to look up to. It was nice to get them a win on our home court … I know they appreciated that. So, we just wanted to go out there and work hard for them.”
The Spartans are back in action Sunday when they travel to Champaign to take on Illinois at 6 p.m.
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