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Michigan State 80, Oakland 62 - Post Game Quotes

Dec. 15, 2013

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Michigan State Head Coach Suzy Merchant

On Jasmine Hines's production...
She's in a tough spot, but she's trying to do the best she can. She hasn't practiced or anything the last two months really and just kind of started up here. To her credit, you're right, she's not in the Jasmine Hines shape I know she wants to be. What we need her to do is be a physical presence in there that can catch, hold the ball strong and if she doesn't finish, at least put people on the bench with foul trouble. I thought she did a nice job of that. It was good to see her step up and make her free throws. I really thought she was a presence on the boards, both ways, as well.

On the overall health of the team...
Madi (Williams) was really questionable, but the doctors felt like she was healthy. For Madi, it's just kind of like getting back on the horse. She got scared a little bit I think and I don't blame her. When she tweaked her knee at Temple, thankfully it was nothing; it was something it just wasn't surgery-based this time, which was good. I felt for her as she has really struggled and was a little bit skiddish I think to get back out there. I felt like if we could just give her a few minutes here and get her used to it again, kind of like we did against Rice, maybe she'll get more confidence and get back on the saddle again. I thought she gave us good minutes. We weren't supposed to play Kiana (Johnson) at all. I think she was just sitting there in the first half and is like `I can play some.' So she went out, warmed up, put her stuff on and said `I'll play a couple minutes at a time, if the doctors will let me,' and they did which was appreciative. We're just a different team when Kiana's at the helm. Nothing negative to Tori (Jankoska) or to KB (Klarissa Bell), but they're not built to be point guards and it really causes us to struggle and to not get into a flow I think at times. She came in and gave us great minutes in the ten minutes she played. That was probably the most productive she's been in short periods of time out there for us, so it was good to see. Jasmine Hines is starting to come back a little bit. The tough thing is, like when a time when we should be in chemistry and rolling and moving forward, the problem is people don't even know Klarissa hasn't practiced in like two weeks. She didn't practice at all this entire week. The week before, all she did was play in the games because she's got shin splints so bad and reactions in her shins that that was the only way we could get her to play in the games. So you're looking at Kiana not practicing, Klarissa not practicing, Madi not practicing, Jas Hines very sparingly and starting to build a little bit more. So you go out on game night and you're playing different people, you're trying to work together and I think that's where there's been some frustration on offense and defense because we should be in a rotation right now and we're not because people have been out, then they're back in, then they're in, then they're out. We'll get there. We still have to get better every day, but we need to be able to practice together as a unit to get better and that's been some of the difficulty here in the past month.

On falling behind early and coming back in today's game...
We just made shots. That was kind of what it came down to. The team the last week or so just has struggled to make shots. If you don't make shots, it kind of gives their offense confidence and our defense gets obviously a little bit worse. We had some focus defensively this week and really worked at it, got better I think. Our defense gets better when we're making shots. As silly as that sounds, it's always been the other way around for us. If we get stops, usually our offense was better in year's past, but for whatever reason we needed someone on the perimeter because people play us nothing but zone to show up and be aggressive and knock down shots. It was great to see Annalise (Pickrel) do that. We could use a couple more kids certainly. I think it was a combination of kids cutting and moving a little bit more, but at the same time I think Annalise was just kind of tired of it and was willing to do whatever it took. She's a great shooter. They even went to a box and one late in the second half against Annalise, so it was nice to open other people up.

On keeping spirits high despite injuries on the team...
It hasn't been easy, that's for sure. Then put exam week on top of that and they're not in the best of moods anyway when you have to study for tests and the pressure of performing at exam time. We had to get better and we put the work in. My philosophy is it's not going to happen by taking a pill or some magical potion, we have to work at it. We have to get better at it. I thought this week we worked and we got better but it's hard when you don't play the people;  the people in practice aren't the same as people in the game or they're out altogether. It just makes it difficult when it's a time of year that I really feel like we should be in a little bit of a flow, a groove, and we're really still kind of figuring each other out. We had some changes in starting lineups, injuries, this kid can play but now she can't and vice versa. All you can do is just keep working on the things that are important to your team to win games, execute and go with the kids that are there in practice and keep developing them.

On the upcoming trip...
This next week as we take off tomorrow, it's a chance to obviously get a little sunshine on your face and it will probably feel good just to have a little warm breeze going. But certainly, great competition on a neutral site  - Oklahoma State and Georgetown are very, very good teams and programs. It will be an opportunity for us to take another step forward and build on what happened today and get better. I always like that time before Christmas after exams because obviously they can enjoy it a little bit. It's a little stress-free in terms of what's on their mind going back home. I do try to do that and I like that time too also - they're good RPI games, going into Christmas and challenge your team a little bit. And then have a little bit of fun, it's good for recruiting. This year we're looking forward to the challenge ahead of us and it will be a good time just to relax, have a little bit of fun and compete at the same time.



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