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Michigan State 51, Illinois 61 Post-Game Quotes

Jan. 23, 2014

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Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant

On the difference between the first half and second half…
I was very concerned about this game, very concerned at halftime trying to ignite our team to get inspired, have a little more passion, enthusiasm and got no response. Like none. From vets to freshman, it didn’t matter. I just felt like I was trying to coach effort out there and aggressiveness and leadership and willing them to do their jobs and it’s just so frustrating. It was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached in. I don’t know how you can be so up one half or one game and then the next game, the same people are just flat. It’s the difference between being a contender or a pretender, which one is it?

On a possible carryover offensively from last game…
I guess there could be. We’re struggling. Probably our biggest problem right now is Kiana (Johnson). She’s 2-20 in the last two games. It’s killing us and she’s turning the ball over and not really playing with the aggressiveness at least defensively, and running the team and setting people up. I don’t know what’s going on, but we’ve got to get that kid right. She’s got to get more engaged, more enthusiastic, more performance-based, more mentally tough because she’s the point guard of your team. I just feel like she’s very uninspired right now and there’s others, too. I don’t understand why we’re not playing, even when we’re doing well; it’s just like we can’t pull away. We can’t keep our foot on the gas. We don’t have our vets right now stepping up and leading. They’d rather defend and rebound, but don’t want any part of having to make a play on the other end sometimes. It’s difficult.

On forcing turnovers & scoring transition points late in the first half, but not having it translate to the second half…
I don’t think we were getting as many stops, I think that was part of it. The other thing was they were sending people back. When the shot went up, they were sending people back. They were playing us a zone and we just didn’t do a good job of knocking down perimeter shots. I thought in the second half, we had opportunities to get the ball inside and our posts either weren’t catching it or weren’t finishing in there or if they got fouled, we didn’t take advantage of that at the free-throw line. It was just a bit of a struggle in terms of getting any kind of offensive production in the second half.

On the play of Aerial Powers tonight…
I think with Aerial, it’s about consistency from the neck up. If you want to be a great player, you show up everyday with the same intent, the same toughness, the same focus, whether it be in practice or in the game. That’s for everybody, not just her. I just felt from the get-go, from warm ups, it just was evident that there just wasn’t a lot of effort and passion going on right there. That has to stem a little bit obviously from your vets. Your vets got to do it. They can’t just talk about it, they’ve got to do it and I just didn’t see a whole lot of that going on and maybe that’s why Aerial tends to be at times up and down. A lot of that’s on her. You are in direct control of your effort level and your attitude. I just felt like she was in one of those funks that she gets in at times. I tried to get her to go, so I sat her in the first half to see if that would get her fired up and motivated. It was just kind of a frustrating evening all around.

On if there was any hangover in terms of expectations following a 4-0 start and then losing the last two games…
I was very aggressive about this game. I was very worried about it. You’re in that time right now where it’s a grind. These last handful of weeks at the end of January and first part of February is when if you want to be a, and I know it’s a tough league; I get that. There’s a lot of craziness going on and we’re still right where we need to be, but it’s just disappointing to let that slip and see so many kids out there that just aren’t aggressive and excited. That was what bothers me. I’m a pretty passionate person. I just want to see kids doing what they’re supposed to do, what’s gotten us where we were at. Nothing anybody’s doing is changing what we’re doing. We’re just really flat right now. Flat in the second half against Penn State, flat in the second half and first half against Illinois. I’m trying just about everything I can try and I’m going to keep on pushing on them, because this team has the ability to do some things. We need people to step up. I again go back to the head of the monster. We’ve got to get Kiana (Johnson) back to where she’s playing with confidence, playing both ends of the floor, bringing some enthusiasm and some passion for our team.

On the play of Becca Mills tonight…
She needs to be able to play both halves. She missed some rebounds, the ball kind of went off her hands, she didn’t catch some things and that kind of thing. For her, we’ve got to get her a little more consistent out there. When she was scoring in the first half; they were all jump shots. We were trying to attack them a little bit more because we weren’t making our jump shots, so we’re like ‘alright, let’s power-post her up in different situations,’ and she was pretty much a non-factor in the zone. Some of that is on her, and probably some of that is on us too. She’s a kid that I thought brought some energy and enthusiasm and got us off on the right start for sure.



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