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Michigan State 102, Canisius 54

Nov. 14, 2013

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Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant

On facing Canisius assistant coach Cetera Washington…
It was bizarre. I was trying to get her attention at halftime because she was doing a few things to our quick hits that I knew she knew the play, so she was throwing her little expertise in there on how to guard it; she did a nice job with that. It’s bizarre because Cetera’s been with me for so long, it just feels unnatural. I still hear her in the back of my head sometimes in certain situations. It was kind of nice after the game, the head coach at Canisius came up to me and he said ‘I just want to thank you so much for Cetera, she’s going to be awesome. She’s awesome for me now and she’s going to be an incredible coach at your level, so I’ll get her ready for you.’ So I thought that speaks volumes, certainly in just the short time she’s been there.

On scoring over 100 points, 61 in the first half, after being held to 62 points in Monday’s loss at Notre Dame …
I thought we did a much better job of pushing the basketball. I thought we were a little bit more conservative against Notre Dame. We watched some film and felt like we really weren’t attacking with the dribble up at the free throw line as much. We were looking to pass versus take it and that’s kind of our rule - you go until somebody stops you and I thought we were a little passive that way. We did a nice job of inside-out threes I think early on and everybody kind of got involved in it. I thought with our offensive rebounding, at least the aggressiveness was there, we didn’t always get them but we certainly were rebounding better.

On Annalise Pickrel’s start to the season and her versatility on the floor …
All those things are great, but I just think her will to win is, of all the kids on our team right now, she’s really elevating. She’s getting the tips, she’s getting around and she’s not settling defensively. She’s making that extra pass. I just think she does whatever is needed right now. I can see her mindset is just at the next level right now, which is really kind of fun to watch. She had a very, very good season for us last year and she’s a tough matchup. She’s had to play three different positions and to see her be effective in three different positions for us I think says a lot about her desire and will to do whatever it takes for her team.

On starting slow in the second half …
I thought we were a little flat, just sort of went through the motions a little bit at times. There wasn’t that sense of urgency that I thought as there was in the first half. And that’s playing three freshmen. That’s kind of like the upperclassmen’s job to set the tone and stay with it. Down the stretch in the last little bit there where we weren’t focused, I think we had some kids out there that don’t get a lot of minutes, but at the same time that’s no excuse. We don’t make excuses; we have to be better than that. I think the mentality is you’ve got to do a better job of trying to replicate at least the intensity and the focus in the second half as you did in the first.

On what Canisius brought to the game …
They started out running that motion offense. I thought we did a nice job on their leading scorer;  she only got two shots and played 15 minutes. They’re hard to guard, they pass, cut, move and there’s no rhyme or reason. They set a lot of flares. I thought that was something we hadn’t seen yet - kind of an outside -in game and you can get into chasing versus defending so I thought that was positive for us. Whenever you play more of a mid-major team, they have kids that can do a little bit of everything. They don’t just have bigs that can power post you and guards that can only shoot or drive it, they can invert you a little bit, so that was one thing. Quite honestly, we wanted to play the game too because of Cetera (Washington) and to have an opportunity as we were scheduling to bring her back and it worked out. I’ve known Terry (Zeh) a long time; he’s a really good coach and a great guy so they were looking for an opportunity to come back. I couldn’t get over (Cetera’s) parents sitting over there in yellow and blue Canisius gear though. I had to give them a hard time about that. They didn’t look quite right - sitting on that end in different colors, especially blue and gold, so that was a little bit awkward.

On Aerial Power and Tori Jankoska’s play so far and if she’s surprised with them …
No, I think they’re very aggressive kids. I think Tori has worked so long. Watching her play in high school, I mean she’s had everything. She’s been triangle and two’ed probably her entire career with two people on her, so having to get her shot off against one guy is refreshing; she’s probably excited about that. She knows how to work without the ball and I think that’s what makes her special, and she has a complete game. Aerial doesn’t surprise me either. I think Aerial’s growing and for her it’s about keeping that mental mindset and staying aggressive. When she does that and finishes plays, I think she’s a pretty special kid. I liked how her and Branndais (Agee) were fighting over the rebounds. We couldn’t get one at Notre Dame, so it was kind of nice to see three and four people - I mean I was even happy when they all went together and traveled. I was like ‘Good, that’s a good turnover, at least we’re getting after it a little bit more.’



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