Michigan State 60, EMU women’s basketball 49
Before the game, EMU recognized Suzy Merchant, the winningest women’s basketball head coach in school history. As I mentioned in the preview, this was Merchant’s first return to the Convocation Center since leaving in 2007 to coach the Michigan State Spartans.
The first half was an exciting back-and-forth affair that had me flashing back to last year, when the Spartans won by a single point in overtime. Altogether there were seven ties and five lead changes, with EMU taking a two-point lead several times, and Michigan State leading by as much as seven in the middle of the half, before the Spartans went six minutes without scoring, allowing the Eagles to seize a one-point lead — which would turn out to be their last — before the half ended with the teams tied at 28.
In the second half, it was the Eagles who had the scoreless stretches — two of them — which allowed Michigan State to build their lead, first with a 9-2 run to start the half, and later with a 10-0 run from 6:38 to 3:05 that really put the game out of reach.
Miranda Tate led the Eagles in scoring, with 18 points. Natachia Watkins scored 11 points and India Hairston added 10 points and nine rebounds. Olivia Fouty and Desyree Thomas also had seven rebounds each, and Thomas also had seven assists.
EMU struggled with ball handling. In one two-minute stretch (within Michigan State’s final 10-0 run) Olivia Fouty turned the ball over three times, followed by Jasmine Thomas intercepting back-to-back passes from Taylor Bird. Altogether, Michigan State outscored EMU off turnovers 13-2, and the 11 point margin was exactly the difference in the game.
EMU also shot the ball poorly. The Eagles made 5-14 three-point shots (35.7%), but only 15-50 (30%) inside the arc. Part of the problem seemed to be timing; EMU often let the play clock get low before they really started looking for a shot, and as a result they often wound up throwing up a bad shot just before the buzzer.
After the game I took a few minutes to talk to Tory Verdi about the team’s performance.
Verdi mentioned that he was particularly happy with his team’s rebounding, noting that Michigan State is normally the top rebounding team in the B1G. As for his strategy, he commented, “With our style of play we want to push it, we want to attack. We felt that we were a little bit quicker than Michigan State.”
As for the offense, Verdi obviously saw room for improvement. “We have to do a better job of executing offensively within the half court. When our sets break down we have to take more of an initiative to create and go one-on-one…Sometimes we’re going so fast and we don’t allow things to develop.”
Here’s the entire interview for your listening pleasure.