Michigan State 64, Illinois 43
 
 
 

 

 
 

Feb. 18, 2010

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Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant

On the effort of the team the last few weeks...
I think it's been nice to see, sharing the basketball and making extra passes. Our bench has really been a huge bonus for us, but through this whole thing I think it's allowed us to have that balance. I think by getting stops and steals we went on transition. You have so many people coming at you if you are one of our opponents. If we can get stops that way where we create an offense from our defense I think that's what allows us to spread the ball around even better.

On the change in the team's offense since the beginning of the season...
We've been working really hard just on our spacing and transition, just really trying to push and keep good spacing and try to attack off the bounce and guard. And I do think that Brittney (Thomas), Jasmine (Thomas), Porsche (Poole), and Cetera (Washington) have all done a really good job of looking for their shot. I don't feel like we're taking too many bad shots, maybe two or three that were kind of questionable. I do feel like we're sharing the ball, we're running through the steps and making extra passes and we have good opportunities to rebound it.

On the bench contributing to the game...
That's really important. I think the one thing we've been preaching is talking about the depth of our team and how maybe a team might not feel it in the first 20 or 30 minutes, but maybe it's the last 10 or maybe it's from the gates. I thought one of the big keys for us was to keep them off the offensive boards. They're a plus 12 offensive rebounding team and I thought that because we were getting stops, and also our defense rebounds, we were pushing so well in transition. You saw them kind of go away from offensive rebounding to get back in transition, so I feel like that has been a big part of our bench production because we have fresh legs in there from guards to post. We don't have kids playing so many minutes that they can't empty out when they're out there.

On the hustle plays...
I felt we were on loose balls, we were getting tips. There were a couple of rebounds that Cetera (Washington) just was in a battle for and came up with, and Jasmine (Thomas) hustled that one off of a free throw miss keeping the ball alive. I felt like tonight we definitely had that pep in our step and I think we've been doing a job of managing practice a little bit; we're still getting our work done, but not going as long so we're fresh here in February and headed for the Big Ten Tournament.

On emphasizing quick starts at the beginning of the game...
We just want to get out to the best start we can. We focus on our defense and I think that's what has created our good opportunities as we get off to a 10-0 start. We were defending pretty well. We didn't bail them out with put them to the free throw line. That's been a big thing we've been trying to make sure that we don't do. We put people to the foul line and give them free opportunities and it changes the dynamic of our team and we don't want to be put in a position like that. I think that we did a good job.

On Allyssa getting the record tonight...
The whole team was behind her. I felt bad because I kept playing her there, but I said let her get in there and just go for every block. I think that's such an honor, it's something she's really earned and worked hard for. Maybe it was meant to be this way where she cannot only break this record, but she gets to do it at home, gets a photo op, gets a timeout where everyone cheers for her, maybe that's the way it was meant to be versus at Michigan. I think it says a lot about her and what she can do for our team and what she's done for the last four years.

On Porsche Poole tonight...
She's really playing well for us and she's really a good transition player. She has great vision, court vision; you saw that play off the ball screen where she fed Taja (Wilson) a nice little lay-up.

Illinois Head Coach Jolette Law

Opening Statement...
Well I just think that the first four minutes of the game clearly dictated the outcome. They went on a 10-0 run early, we had some early turnovers and as I look at the stat sheet we turned the ball over 24 times and they scored 21 points off of them. I just think that we didn't come out focused and prepared from tip.

On how her team performed in the early minutes of the game...
That's what we just talked about in the locker room, at tip-off, you've got to be ready from tip. That's one of the things the last couple games [we've done] like against Northwestern, from tip we came out ready. Against a great team like Michigan State you cannot come out without fire, and I think the first three, four minutes dictated the whole game.

On what she told her team after she called timeout after Michigan State jumped out to a 6-0 lead...
We were turning the ball over, weren't talking on defense, transition defense we weren't communicating. I just told them to settle down and just try to dictate on defense and actually execute. There was no communication, it's like we were deer in the headlights, and it was like "Oh my God." So I called a timeout just to calm them down and once we settled down we started making it a game. It was 11-9 and then we started making some other miscues and Michigan State went back on another run.

On having trouble matching up to Michigan State's depth...
It was difficult. I just think with Karisma Penn getting into early foul trouble out there, she was on the bench by the 14 minute mark, that didn't help us out at all. One of my best players, Amber Moore, she's been out all season. But that's no excuse. We've been playing with this roster for the last couple of games, so I'm not going to make any excuses. It's good to have bodies to rotate in and out, but I can't make an excuse that we didn't come out with that fire to play.

On if the turnovers were primarily self-inflicted or a result of Michigan State pressure...
I think self-inflicted. We turned the ball over, like there were two Michigan State players right there in pink jerseys and we just threw the ball right to them. I was like, come on, calm down. I think we were trying to make things happen instead of just being settled and poised and playing with a great deal of confidence. I think we just had a lot of unforced turnovers, of the 24. When I look at who turned the ball over, 10 of them were from our seniors. So I just sat them down and said `Hey, just don't try to over-pass, make the safe pass and settle down a little bit.'

On what Allyssa DeHaan has meant to the league after her NCAA record in blocks...
I can't believe she graduates. She's a phenomenal shot blocker, she's extended her range as far as shooting the three. She really makes you think down there. She's 6-9, 6-10, sometimes she looks like she's about 6-11. She changes the whole complexion of the game. When she's out of the game, you feel like you have a chance. When she's in the game, our post players have to make extra moves to pull her out on the perimeter. Allyssa DeHaan has meant a lot to this conference, I'm glad to say that she's a part of the Big Ten Conference and congratulations to her. I hope that she continues to do well, and I'm sure she will be a great success in the future.

On the effort from senior Center Jenna Smith...
She's been our workhorse for the last three years, and she makes no complaint. I know she's a little banged up, but she's a fighter and will continue to work through it. That's why we were trying to use [Karisma Penn] a little bit more, pull her out on the perimeter. But [Jenna Smith] has meant a lot to this program, and I know she'll do well in the future as well.