Michigan State’s women’s basketball team has been plagued by injury and used 13 different starting lineups this season, but the Spartans are healthier these days as they continue preparations for the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans (17-12, 7-9 Big Ten) are the No. 10 seed and will face No. 7 Indiana in a second-round game on Thursday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. MSU won its final two regular-season games. Ohio State won the Big Ten regular season and is the No. 1 seed for the second straight year.
Redshirt sophomore Shay Colley, named all-Big Ten honorable mention this week, missed seven games because of a knee injury and returned Feb. 14, and Lexi Gussert is returning from an arm injury.
“Our team is getting healthier,” Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said with a chuckle during the Big Ten coaches’ call this week.
“Having Shay back and Lexi is getting back from fracturing her arm and some other kids who have had some issues are starting to get healthier, so that’s helped us here down the stretch.”
Having Colley back is a boost for the Spartans as they head into the postseason.
She leads the team in scoring, averaging 11 points a game. Colley averages 4.7 rebounds and has 94 assists and 44 steals.
“She’s a difference-maker on both ends of the floor,” Merchant said. “She’s a really good leader, super athletic. She does a really good job for us covering up some mistakes for us, too. There are a lot of little things that she does that sometimes don’t add up to a stat sheet. I guess if I had to say who does she affect the most, she has really helped other people’s games around her.”
Redshirt senior Branndais Agee, who averages 10.3 points and team-best 5.7 rebounds, and sophomore guard Taryn McCutcheon, who averages 9.3 points, also were named All-Big Ten honorable mention. Junior center Jenna Allen, third on the team in scoring averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds, was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media.
Now with increasing depth resulting from the return of the Spartans’ injured players, Merchant said the Spartans enter the Big Ten Tournament with confidence.
“I definitely think that’s been one of our strengths and then obviously we lost it there for about five or six games with a lot of injuries,” Merchant said of the team’s overall depth. “But as we are starting to get healthier, the good thing is that you look at our stat sheet, we’re going to play kids who had experience out there.
“We can go 10 deep, and that does help, I think, when you can put Nia (Hollie) and Lexi out there and even Kennedy (Johnson) can play eight, 10 minutes a game for us if we needed her to. That really helps us when you have to play back-to-back games (in the tournament).”
BIG TEN WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT
No. 12 Northwestern vs. No. 13 Wisconsin, 1:30 p.m.
No. 11 Penn State vs. No. 14 Illinois, 4 p.m.
No. 8 Purdue vs. No. 9 Rutgers, noon
No. 5 Iowa vs. Northwestern-Wisconsin winner, 2:30 p.m.
No. 7 Indiana vs. No. 10 Michigan State, 6:30 p.m.
No. 6 Michigan vs. No. Penn State-Illinois winner, 9 p.m.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. Purdue-Rutgers winner, noon
No. 4 Minnesota vs. Iowa_Northwestern-Wisconsin winner, 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland vs. Indiana-Michigan State winner, 6:30 p.m.
No. 3 Nebraska vs. Michigan_Penn State-Illinois winner, 9 p.m.
Semifinal, 6 p.m. (BTN)
Semifinal, 8:30 p.m. (BTN)
Championship, 7 p.m. (ESPN)