The Michigan State women’s basketball team displayed a great performance on both sides of the ball during its first and only exhibition match this season against Davenport Thursday night.
One thing that head coach Robyn Fralick said she knew about her team before the start of the season was that they were going to be aggressive.
“We must win the turnover battle and convert that into points. At our best, we will be tough, together and connected,” Fralick said.
Tough and together was exactly right as the team worked together to create a strong impact on the defensive side of the ball.
During their exhibition matchup against the Panthers, the Spartans were able to force a total of 30 turnovers while only giving up 16 of their own. Their extra effort to force turnovers resulted in multiple fast-break opportunities and 36 total points off of turnovers.
A lot of the forced turnovers for the Panthers came from the MSU full-court press that they efficiently ran. The Spartans stayed in a full press for most of the second half, even late into the game they continued to keep the pressure and use their speed on defense to create offense.
“One of the biggest strengths of our teams is our speed," Fralick said. "I think we’ve got really good team speed across the board and so we have to find ways to use that and being able to full-court pressure is one of those ways."
21 points was the most the Panthers scored in one quarter and it was during the fourth quarter. That would usually be an understandable stat line in a game that was not close late, but Fralick was not so understanding when it came to letting up easy points.
"Yeah, I thought our fourth-quarter defense got really relaxed and there was a mix of giving up easy baskets and fouling too much. So we’ve got to be able to sustain,” Fralick said after the game. “There is just a way to play the game the right way regardless of the score. Playing every possession the right way and I thought we did that most of the night, but I thought the fourth quarter we got away from that.”
Eleven different Spartans played in the game against the Panthers and each player that saw the court at least grabbed three rebounds before the end of the night.
Graduate guard Julia Ayrault was the highlight of the night when it came to rebounds as she grabbed eight defensive rebounds and three offensive boards to lead the team with 11 total.
The Spartans also had a total of 15 steals and it was another graduate guard Moira Joiner who was the leader in this category with a total of four steals on the night. Joiner also was the leading scorer of the night with 18 points.
“She is a great two-way player, a veteran with tons of experience," Fralick said. "Two things that stand out about Mo (Joiner) is she shows up the same way every day. When we’re at practice, when we’re competing you can count on her."
During the game, there were multiple celebrations between Joiner and her teammates after a successful defensive possession. Indicating that the team is excited about the defensive focused gameplan that Fralick has been pushing.
“That is pretty much the way I play the game and the way I think the game should be played," Joiner said. "I was always more of a defensive player growing up and the offense just came with the defense ... I think that coach Fralick did a good job coming in and saying that the defensive end is what I and what we will value as a team and I believe that we have the right players to do that.”
The Spartans still have a lot to prove during this long season as they begin to head into regular season play.
Defense will likely be the biggest difference-maker for the Spartans this year. They were a good defensive team last year however, they struggled to convert turnovers into points. This year finding a good balance on both sides of the ball will be key for MSU.
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