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Women's Basketball
NCAA Tournament First Round Practice Day Update
Spartan head coach Suzy Merchant held a press conference this morning at Carmichael Arena.
Spartan head coach Suzy Merchant held a press conference this morning at Carmichael Arena.

March 22, 2014

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The Michigan State women's basketball team has arrived in Chapel Hill and took its first trip to Carmichael Arena this morning. The Spartans had media availability and held a 90-minute practice, in preparation of tomorrow's NCAA Tournament First Round game vs. Hampton.

No. 5-seed MSU (22-9) and No. 12-seed Hampton (28-4) are set to tip at 12:40 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and ESPN3/WatchESPN.

2014 NCAA Tournament First Round Practice Day Video


Suzy Merchant, Michigan State Head Coach

On how Hampton compares to other teams they have played...
I think they [Hampton University] have some similarities and some threads that they do as a whole that we've played against. I think the Big Ten Conference has a lot of really good rebounding teams, a lot of good transition offense teams, and a lot of good kids that can get their own shot and don't need a screen or a play to get it done. I think it's hard to say there's one specific team. I think every team we play has some of those players on it. So we've played against really good transition offense teams, teams that crash the boards, and teams that can get their own shots. I think it's hard for them, and hard for me to say this is exactly like this team because we've played a mesh of that throughout our season.

On the difference in play after Kiana Johnson's suspension ...
I think the one thing is that we have a lot of different people that handle the ball in our break. So it was an easier transition. Tori [Jankoska] had played some point guard. Probably the difference, the biggest change is that Klarissa [Bell] primarily has taken that role. That's something that she hasn't played a lot of. However, what I do think it brings is Kiana [Johnson] did a lot of good things for us, obviously, but she was also a kid that was a deferring point guard first. She was always looking for a pass, which I liked. I think this gives us a little more scoring options. Klarissa was our leading scorer, and now she's at the point. She can handle it. But again, I haven't really played really differently. We still run the same break and the same sets and things like that. I think maybe there's a difference in the commanding presence out there. If I had to say that there's one unique thing, I would say that the dominating, aggressive, always looking around and having that commanding presence. But in terms of the way we play and style of play I haven't seen any differences. In fact, I think it's made us better and stronger in some ways.



On the team's adjustments into post-season play...
Well I think probably all of us that are here at the tournament feel that way. For us, it's no different. We have three freshmen that play a lot of minutes, two that start, so this is their first time. I think you've got kids on your team, it's their first time. You've got vets and seniors that kind of understand and know what it's all about. So it's really about meshing and mending those different experiences together. I do think at the end of the day, though, you go out there and you play the same game you've played for the past thirty plus games and you just get after it. The team that competes the hardest and executes better than the other team wins. It doesn't matter about seedings or if you've been in NCAA tournaments before. At this point, I think it's anybody's opportunity.

Klarissa Bell, Michigan State Guard

On Hampton's players...
They have some really aggressive and athletic guards who are quick. Number 0 is a scorer, I think their leading scorer right now. Number 2, their point guard, is also a score at will type of point guard. Number 1 is a shooter who can also drive to the basket, and 21 is what we would call probably the best player on their team. She can rebound, she can dribble pull up, shoot threes, drive it to the basket. She is a very good four/guard. Then 33, she's also a good player. She gets in there, she cleans up the boards, and she's always ready. She's always attacking the boards, which is awesome for their team. So they have a really good, solid five players.

On how the team plays differently without Kiana Johnson...
I would say there's definitely some differences without a true point guard out there on the floor. I think everyone's responsibility of knowing what plays we're in and making sure we're getting in our spots quick enough, I think that has just been something that everyone's taking on. It's just the responsibility role. I think that we're bigger without Kiana out there. If I'm playing point guard, I'm 5' 10" where she was 5' 8", and then Tori is also out there. I think it gives us a bigger look. There are some differences and some similarities, but I like where we're at right now and I think we're going to do really well.

Annalise Pickrel, Michigan State Forward

On the team's adjustment after Kiana Johnson's suspension ...
I think people have had to step up in positions they don't normally play, Klarrisa [Bell] and Tori [Jankoska] specifically. So transitioning, when there needs to be a spot on our team that needs to be filled, point guard is probably the hardest especially under Coach [Suzy Merchant] because she was a point guard. The expectation is really high especially for a point guard, especially in the Big Ten. I think Klarissa and Tori have done a really good job of it, not only having to put others in a good position but also being scorers themselves, because that's what they are. So transitioning from that as a team, I think that we've all had to adjust and fill in more of the glue, or getting everyone controlled and set where they're supposed to be. It's been a team effort in that sense, and then also just specifically Klarissa and Tori just being able to handle the ball and pressure and stuff like that for us.


David Six, Hampton University Head Coach

On how he's preparing his team for post-season play...
By telling them that the rim is 10 feet, the court is 94 feet. It's no different than what we've been doing. As cliché as it might sound, it's true. Malia [Tate-DeFreitas] scored 3,200 points in high school. She scored almost 600 points this year. We're just looking for you to do the same thing you've done half your life. So, I think that they're ready in that respect. We haven't changed anything. We played ambitious [in our] out-of-conference schedule. I think that has prepared us for this moment.

On how much momentum they have from their winning streak...
Not much. We never really talk about it. I thought that our kids handled that win steak well until the tournament, when it actually got to the tournament and the media talked about it. Now it's one and done. So we're going to take it one possession at a time, one game at a time and get ready to go.

On being a 12-seed...
We only talk about what we can do, regardless of the seed. All the games have to be played on the floor. We want to talk about what we can do well against Michigan State, what we need to take away from Michigan State so that we're successful. We haven't really focused on anybody else but Michigan State in terms of their film and watching what they do, their tendencies, and Hampton University.

On how to compete against Michigan State...
They're big, they're a big team and we're going to have to box out. They certainly are talented but you don't tie for the Big Ten lead if you're not talented. We're certainly going to have to bring our A game, but there are some things we do well. We defend well, we're extremely quick, and we're looking to try to take advantage of some of the strengths we have.

Nicole Hamilton, Hampton Guard

On what she's learned from previous NCAA tournament experience...
You have bigger and better teams in the NCAA [tournament], you just have to match our intensity with their intensity.

On what Michigan State does well in play...
I'd say they rebound, but we can limit them to one shot by boxing out. They shoot the three well, so we have got to actually play defense to the best of our ability.

Alyssa Bennett, Hampton Guard

On Michigan State's players...
I know they [Michigan State] are a good team as far as pick-and-rolls. I think they're well-coached, and I think they can rebound really well.

On advice about playing in the NCAA tournament...
Don't come out with nervousness. Just play hard. Don't worry about the crowd, just take them out of the game and it becomes easier for you. [Malia Tate-DeFreitas] needs to just come out here and play her game. When she plays her game, she's unstoppable when she's not thinking about making mistakes. Don't be nervous, just go out there and do what you do best.

Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton Guard

On being a 12-seed...
I think we did get respect by getting a 12-seed, but I also feel like we're being underestimated by our opponent team.

On how she feels about the game...
I think I'm going to handle it pretty good as long as I'm physical and stay aggressive and always in attack mode.


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