Dec. 29, 2012
Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant:
On the team's ability to play and want to play defense...
I think they have done a really nice job with not only conceptually what we're trying to do from the very beginning, but also being able to apply scouting reports, for example personnel. That's a different thing. It's one thing to play defense, and another thing to tailor your defense and tweak it based on who you are playing. That's the part that I have been really impressed with our core group of kids is that they know personnel. They know what shoulder the kid's going over; they know certain strengths that they have that we need to be able to take out. I see that in our guard play, and I think our posts are doing the exact same thing.
On how important defense was today...
Yeah, it was a struggle. It was frustrating on the offensive side. We had three possessions in a row where it was two missed layups and three free throws. That was frustrating, but that's the one thing I keep talking to the team about is that sometimes you win ugly. Sometimes it's a struggle and it's about staying in the fight and hopefully throwing the last punch. I think our defense is the one thing that we try to do night in and night out. Offensively, obviously we have some work to do and continue with our execution. ButI am proud of the fact that I think our kids have bought into that side of the ball. I'd take an ugly win over losing any day.
On Annalise Pickrel's performance...
We love her versatility. She can really play two positions, and primarily we have her at the swing spot where we can post her and she can face up and do some things. We really like the way she's playing. The one thing about Annalise that I really have always appreciated is she just doesn't tie emotion to the game. The only emotion she has is a competitiveness. She really doesn't think about the last play, whether it be good or bad. She just plays within the moment, and I know that sounds silly, but a lot of kids take their mistakes and they think about the shots they miss and won't take the next one, and in some ways become their own worst enemy. The one thing with Annalise that we appreciate is that no matter what the outcome is, she's going to stay aggressive and forget about what happened the last possession and try to do better. I think that's why you see her stepping up for us.
On her thoughts of being 12-1 going into Big Ten play...
I guess my thing is that I know there are a lot of coaches that do it, where they look at their schedule and kind of map out where they think they're going to be, and I've never been one to do that. I am proud of this group. I wasn't sure where we were going to be. I thought it would certainly be challenging because we didn't have depth. How can you go into the season with a handful of kids and compete at a high level? So, I thought our depth would be an issue, but I was just really proud of their fight. I'm not sure I would say we'd be 12-1, I'm not sure where I thought we'd be, but I am proud of the fact that we are 12-1. I felt in that one week if we could do it all over again, it would be different. I am proud of where we are at, but I still think there is work to be done.