Suzy Merchant: Representing USA and MSU at 2009 World University Games
Michigan State women's basketball head coach Suzy Merchant will serve as an assistant coach for the 2009 USA Basketball Women's World University Games Team in Belgrade, Serbia from July 1-11. Merchant is joined on the staff by head coach Charli Turner Thorne of Arizona State and fellow assistant Julie Rousseau of Pepperdine. The 12-player team, made of the best collegiate players in the country, will begin competition on Wednesday, July 1 against France. Throughout her time with USA Basketball, Merchant will touch base with MSUSpartans.com about her experiences at the World University Games.
Coach Merchant's trip with USA Basketball to Serbia can also be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/suzymerchant.
Saturday, July 11
Team USA (7-0) accomplished its ultimate goal winning the Gold medal after a 83-64 victory over Russia (6-1). Team USA dominated the glass, outrebounding Russia 52-32 and scoring 22 second-chance points to Russia's four. Three players reach double-figures, led by an impressive 28 point, 18 rebound effort by Tina Charles. Team USA has now won seven Gold medals in its 15 World University Game appearances.
Friday, July 10
The Gold medal is in sight!
We beat the Australia National Team last night and are now in the Gold medal game against Russia. We got off to a slow start, but our pressure defense and offensive pace eventually wore them down. Definitely not our best performance, but one that got us a victory!
Our goal is in sight now. Time to dig deep and bring home the Gold. It was a "short night" as they say in the coaching world! Russia is my scout and they played last night at 8 p.m. By the time we got back to the Olympic Village and I got the game film downloaded on to my computer, it was almost midnight. I have gotten pretty skilled at the Windows Movie Maker software! I feel like a video coordinator. It's been good for us to use it so that our players have a sense of the opponent's style, sets and defenses. Monique Govan, MSU's video coordinator, would be proud of my skills!
Russia is a big team at every position. They are extremely efficient offensively and do a great job of jamming the lane on defense. They are number one in scoring defense in this tournament so we will have to set great screens and have good timing on our sets. We do believe they will have a hard time with our pressure style of defense as well as our physical play. They like to face up versus power up style. We will definitely have an advantage over them.
Wish us luck ... Go Team USA!
Thursday, July 9
Team USA (6-0) advanced to Saturday's Gold medal game with a 81-66 victory over Australia today. Team USA jumped out to a 43-25 halftime lead and held on in the second half for the win. Four players ended up in double-figures offensively. Team USA will face Russia (6-0), who blew out the Czech Republic 106-64 today, in the Gold medal game on Saturday at 3 p.m. (9 a.m. ET).
Wednesday, July 8
We had a much needed basketball day today. We had a film session of ourselves vs. the Czech Republic and watched Australia's scout film. We headed off to practice to get some work done on defensive rebounding and high ball screens; that's Australia to a tee They have the hockey mentality of shots on goal; they send four to the boards hard! Our team definitely needs to box out.
We are down to the semifinal game now. If we win, we play for Gold medal. If we lose, we play for the Bronze. That's not much of an option in our book... Gold medal game here we come!
I got to see Kalisha play today. I had quite the adventure in a taxi by myself with a non-english speaking cab driver! Took us over an hour to get there but got there at halftime. They struggled, but it was good to see her compete. That was really my only opportunity to watch her because we were in different pools and playing in different venues throughout the city.
Wish us luck against Australia! Go Team USA!
Tuesday, July 7
Team USA (5-0) kept its perfect record together with a 115-78 win over the Czech Republic today. With the win, Team USA advances to the semifinals and will face Australia (4-1) on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET). Team USA shot a tournament-best 58.9% from the field to match its output from the opener against France. Nine players scored at least nine points with five reaching double-figures. They also had a large edge on the boards, tallying a 51-21 rebounding margin.
What a productive day for both our team and the men's team! We beat the Czech Republic, 115-78, and our men's team beat hometown favorite Serbia by two points. Our game was one of our best perfomances at both ends of the floor. Our team was extremely focused and ready to play from the tip. One of our goals was to come out and be the "aggressor" on offense and take it at them. Well, let's just say we did just that, as two of their starters fouled out in the third quarter! Their starting point guard fouled out with three minutes gone in the third and their starting center was gone halfway through the quarter!
When our game was over we headed to watch our guys play Serbia. Serbia's men's team is very talented. They had beat our men in a scrimmage earlier so we had our hands full. The arena had 10,000 plus Serbian fans that were hostile and loud. We had a strong but small contingency of USA athletes there trying to be heard. Security was unbelievable around our group of fans. There had to be at least 30 police officers in addition to our normal group of anti-terrorist swat team surrounding us. When we left the game, the crowd was yelling and throwing things at us. It was a scary couple of minutes until they got us out of there; makes you appreciate the fact that we are safe and sound in America!
I hope to be able to see Kalisha play tomorrow. We have an earlier practice time and I am scouting for the Gold medal game, so I am hoping to make it to watch her. They aren't in medal contention so their games are now on our practice days which allows me some flexibility to see her. They play Turkey at 5:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. ET).
Two more games to the Gold - Go Team USA!
Sunday, July 5
Team USA used an 11-0 run over the end of the first half and into the second to put away Poland, 76-67, in its opening second round match. Team USA, who improves to 4-0, had its most competitive game so far. Team USA will next face the Czech Republic, Group D's No. 1 seed, at 3:00 p.m. (9:00 a.m. EDT) on Tuesday, July 7. The Czech Republic beat Great Britian today 89-83 in overtime.
We had our first taste of a competitive game against Poland. They played with more fire and toughness than we did from the jump. We got things turned around starting the second half, but it was something we probably needed since we have been beating everyone so easily. Our focus has to get better as we advance, that is for certain. It was a lesson this team needed! Poland's size bothered us at all positions and they did a good job of taking away our inside game. We adjusted to their defense in the second half and made a run to put them away.
We will practice tomorrow and do our scouting report on the Czech Republic. They beat Poland by 14 points! The crowds will also be in favor of Czech which will make it even more of a challenge. With their victory over Great Britain, they are now in the medal rounds. We will have our hands full with face up posts and big guards that post.
One thing that I've forgotten to mention, is the amount of security that they have surrounded our team when we go to games, practices and any tours. In fact, we have a special swat team that specialize in terrorism that showed up the day after the U.S. excursion into Afghanistan. A black Range Rover with an extra eight "men in black" follow us everywhere now. We were told the U.S. Government paid for them. When we took the team on a tour, the first stop was of a monument that said, "We were only children" referring to our bombing in the 90's. That was a powerful moment for us all. Not an easy thing to experience.
Go Team USA!
Saturday, July 4
Happy 4th of July! Hope everyone enjoys their celebrations and fireworks.
We are out for a day on the town after a big victory last night. We enjoyed a trip to the city center in Belgrade; lots of great little shops. Ended the excursion with a tour of the Fortress and a lunch overlooking the Danube River.
The day ended with a lot of film breakdown of Czech Republic to get ready for the Medal rounds. So, unfortunately, no fireworks or BBQ's here!
Wish us luck against Poland tomorrow. Go Team USA!
Friday, July 3
Team USA went 3-0 in Group A, capped by a 84-50 win over host Serbia. Four players reached double-figures in the win. Team USA dominated the glass with an impressive 44-18 rebounding edge. Team USA (3-0) advanced to the second round as Group A's No. 1 seed, facing Poland (2-1), the No. 2 seed from Group D, at 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) on Sunday, July 5.
We played very well against Team Serbia. It was, by far, the most physical game, I've ever witnessed. Serbia's best player set screens with a linebacker mentality! It surprised us all how much they let go. The FIBA rules are evidently much different than the NCAA rules! The crowd was hostile which made the game even more emotional. Glad we got out of that arena without an injury or a bench clearing brawl! :)
Looking forward to a rest day! Happy 4th of July...
Thursday, July 2
Team USA improved to 2-0 in Group A play with a 93-59 win over Great Britian. Team USA shot 43% from the field, led by three players in double-figures. They controlled the boards with a 55-30 margin and forced 28 Great Britian turnovers. Team USA plays its last game in Group A tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) against host Serbia.
Last night, we attended the opening ceremonies. There were 145 countries represented and we all marched into Belgrade Arena. Each country had selected someone to carry the flag and the U.S. chose Alexis Grey-Lawson from our team. We were all excited and honored they chose a women's basketball player. Each country was introduced while the flag bearer walked in the stadium. It was amazing to see all the different countries and to witness the pride everyone had in where they came from. The only negative thing was when they introduced the United States of America, many of the countries "booed" us. That was certainly hard to hear. Alexis, who was the only one walking with the flag, told me after, "Coach, I've never been booed before!" I did take pictures but haven't had a chance to download anything yet.
We played another fantastic team game against Great Britain this morning and are now 2-0. We forced 28 turnovers and really shared the ball on offense. It's been enjoyable to watch this group play so well together. We usually sub every three minutes and platoon five in at a time for the most part. So far, the next best team I've seen here is our second five! Probably not politically correct to say that, but it's true to this point. Our speed, power, athleticism and skill set have dominated pool play. We are just starting to scout the other pools, so I'm sure that perspective will change. We finish up tomorrow with our pool against Serbia. They are going to give us all they have being the hometown favorite! Their talent level and skill set is the best in our pool. They love to run in transition and take you off the bounce. A big key will be how well our posts handle defending the perimeter shooters. But, they will have to have an answer for our power, strength and size inside. Should be a good battle.
Go Team USA!
Wednesday, July 1
Well, our first game of pool play was very successful to say the least. We beat France by 85 points. Yes, you did read that correctly. Our defense was impressive to say the least. We did keep our focus and made good decisions. That can be challenging when you are up by that many points. Our post players dominated the paint. It wasn't much of a contest down low that is for sure. France did try to double a little, but our defense created so much offense for us that they really couldn't get to our post players. Serbia (the obvious hometown favorite) played immediately following our game which allowed us to scout the game. They have some talented players. All five can face up and shoot 3-point shots. That will definitely be a challenge, but not before we focus on Great Britian tomorrow.
The entire U.S. Delegation is heading off to the Opening Ceremonies this afternoon. I'm anxious to see all 10,000 athletes represented. I'll try to take some good pictures and download them later tonight for viewing.
Until next time, Go Team USA!
Tuesday, June 30
We had another busy day at the Olympic Village in preparation for our first game against France tomorrow. After breakfast, we had a flag raising ceremony and welcome presentation from the Mayor of Belgrade. There were four other countries there with us - Italy, Greece, Czech Republic and Estonia. They play a Serbian welcome song as they raise each country's flag. All of the USA teams and coaches were in attendance, which made for quite a large group of Americans! We have men's and women's Basketball, water polo, tae kwan do, gymnastics and a few other sports as well. It's been fun to meet the players and coaches of the other USA teams.
We had a very productive scrimmage against Australia tonight. We played the best defense and took care of the ball! Definitely a confidence booster for our team and it was much needed. We have played mostly men's teams at the trials in the U.S., and struggled at times to defend and handle the pressure. We certainly dictated the tempo in that scrimmage. France will be a tough challenge to start out pool play. They have a strong inside post game and some quality shooters on the perimeter. Our game is at 10 a.m. which is very early for these college-aged kids, but we need to wake up and bring our toughness right from the first possession! We all look forward to the challenge ahead in bringing home the Gold medal.
Go Team USA!
Monday, June 29
Our trip into the city of Belgrade was a bit of an adventure. We started our tour battling a rain storm that didn't allow us to quite get to the venues we had planned; maybe on our next stop to the city! Our bus took us by the buildings that the United States had bombed in the 90's. That was a tough to see that is for sure. The country hasn't rebuilt that area since. We did eat at one of the oldest restaurants in Belgrade named the Three Hats. We had a traditional Serbian meal which included cheeses, meats and vegetables from their country. They also had a band that taught our girls a Serbian dance. That was certainly very entertaining! When we left the restaurant, they had a guest book signed by all the celebs/politicians that had been there. The owner showed us the page where George Bush Sr. signed it in 1983.
We had a friendly scrimmage with a young Serbian men's team that helped us adjust to the European style of play. They could all really shoot the ball, and drive and kicks for 3's were what we defended for 40 minutes. We are taking time to adjust to the 24 second shot clock right now. We have a tendency to think we need to shoot off the first or second pass versus reversing the ball. We addressed that in a team meeting this morning before our practice. It did get better and hopefully we continue with our extra passes!
We ended our night with a stop at our men's friendly game with Serbia. Let's just say it wasn't the "friendliest" environment. Their team beat us pretty good and you could definitely tell they were proud of their victory!
We scrimmage Team Australia tomorrow which is the last friendly game before we play our first game in pool play against France on Wednesday at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET).
Until next time, Go Team USA!
Saturday, June 27
A full day in Serbia has given us a better perspective of our daily routines in the Olympic Village. There are over 10,000 volunteers here to make sure the games run smoothly. Our accommodations are brand new and set up like a dorm. I have 2 room mates - head coach, Charli Turner Thorne, and assistant coach, Julie Rousseau. Feels like we are back in college again. Only bad thing is we have to wait 30 minutes until our hot water is heated for our showers!
We had our first full practice at an off site gym. It was definitely a good one and a competitive two hours. We really focused on defense and particularly defending the arc. These teams can really shoot it! We will have a friendly game scrimmage tomorrow which will help us evaluate our weaknesses and allow us to make adjustments.
We plan on doing some touring in the morning and catch some Belgrade sights before our scrimmage. Everyone is looking forward to seeing what this big city has to offer. Our team has already found a shopping mall next to the village with a McDonalds and KFC in it! The food has been fine by me, but some of the younger generation just needs their comfort food.
Kalisha Keane and Team Canada are right around the corner from us so it's been great to see her. We actually had practice after them tonight. We have a couple of game times that are the same time in pool play which will make it tough for me to watch her early on. The third round of pool play allows me to see her compete. I look forward to it.
Until next time, Go Team USA!
Friday, June 26
Our travel day was quite an experience! We ended up missing our connection in Munich and had to go to Milan before heading in to Belgrade. That little excursion tacked on an additional 12 hours! So our final travel time was over 26 hours long. Needless to say, we were all exhausted and hungry by the time we got to the hotel.
We missed our first practice time but have one tonight at 7 p.m. We need to get the jet lag out!!! Off to a meeting and then to lunch.
Go Team USA!
Thursday, June 25
Well, here we go! We all just got on our bus to Denver from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. We fly to Chicago, then on to Munich and finally into Belgrade, Serbia. We are suppose to land at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning; a long travel itinerary ahead that is for sure. Lots of reading, film watching, and hopefully sleeping ahead!
The team has really come together and we have witnessed some very solid leadership taking place this past week. We definitely have competitive players that have nothing but a Gold medal on their minds. We've had a couple of team nights that have helped us all get to know each other better. Let's just say we have quite a few characters on this team! They have been a lot of fun to be around.
Go Team USA!
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